YOU'VE HAD YOUR TIME
The Second Part of the Confessions
Burgess's best book and, he's said, his last: the second and final part of his autobiography, following Little Wilson and Big God (1986). Burgess's life-review, covering 1959 to 1982, equals his finest fiction, A Clockwork Orange and Earthly Powers. It opens with Burgess and his flopabout alcoholic wife Lynne just returned from Malaya and with Burgess, now 42, being told he has a brain tumor and only a year to live. Black farce underlies his sudden effort to ensure an income for his wife once he's dead: he sets out to write his first novel and, writing 2,000 words a day, produces five books in bis fatal final year--only to survive! But now he's a professional writer. Alas, fiction doesn't pay. He takes up book reviewing on a major scale, sells review copies by the suitcaseful, adds on TV and play reviewing, expands with the odd journalistic job, lecturing, touring, playwriting, scriptwriting for Hollywood and British TV--all the while turning out novel after novel. Dizzied reviewers await his novel of the month. Burgess has not time to be the artist he wants to be, is always in debt, odd-jobbing, and when he does rise above hackwork, as in Napoleon Symphony, it's a failure. But with book after book he does his best, despite terrible reviews. Meanwhile, Lynne collapses in public all over Europe, cuckolds him repeatedly, and never reads his books, although she does help him dress his heroines. When she dies, Burgess's real life begins. A former lover tells him she has a five-year-old son by him. Burgess insists on marriage. Then he meets Stanley Kubrick, who shows him the film he's made of A Clockwork Orange (after tossing out Burgess's script and filming his own). Its brilliance is a mixed blessing, with Burgess forever after condemned to public gaze. His last pages--a finely itemized inventory of his house, study, and general clutter--show wonderfully the small profits of the writer's trade. Tiptop--though the second half is less satiric.