Writer John Anthony Burgess Wilson (1917-1993) was born on this day in Manchester, England. His Catholic upbringing and the death of his mother a year after his birth profoundly influenced his life and work.
"Art is dangerous. It is one of the attractions: when it ceases to be dangerous you don't want it," he once said.
After army and teaching careers, Burgess was misdiagnosed as having a terminal brain tumor in 1959 and turned to writing; he wrote five novels that year. "There is probably no greater happiness in this world than that derived from writing," he said.
In 1962, he published his most famous novel, A Clockwork Orange. In the brilliant and disturbing story, Burgess created a slang (Nadsat) for his antihero Alex and the delinquent gang of "droogs" that combined English and Russian.
"Language is extremely dangerous," Burgess said. "Language probably bears no relation to ultimate reality. Itís a ritual making device. It's a ritual making process."
In addition to some 50 novels and critiques of Shakespeare and James Joyce, the prolific Burgess composed dozens of musical pieces including opera librettos and symphonies. "I refuse no reasonable offer of work," he said, "and very few unreasonable ones."
"I like to regard my books as works of craftsmanship for sale, objects well-made as I can make them," Burgess said. "The deeper issues--aesthetic or social or metaphysical--are not my concerns."
Burgess's List of 99 Best Modern Novels
Popularity is glory's small change.