English novelist Anthony Burgess, 1917-1993, was born 100 years ago last month. He exploded onto the literary scene around 1960 as a middle-aged prodigy, publishing his first five novels in about a year. Supposedly, he had been misdiagnosed with terminal brain cancer so he wrote all these books to leave his widow an inheritance. (This story is too good for me to fact-check.)
His most famous book, A Clockwork Orange, was published in 1962 when he was in his mid-40s. Kubrick’s colossally entertaining film adaptation in 1971 elevated Burgess to international celebrityhood. Despite now being interviewed on TV a lot, he remained extraordinarily productive, putting out dazzling books on a shorter schedule than any other famous author, while writing endless amounts of literary journalism.
But then high end public boredom started to set in as his skills and ambitions somewhat waned with age. Mostly people got used to Burgess the way NBA fans got used to Kareem: Yeah, sure, everybody knows there is this super-agile 7′-2″ guy with an unstoppable shot. Ho-hum.