Happy 100th to The Lord of the Fly in the Ointment, Sir William Golding

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Happy 100th to The Lord of the Fly in the Ointment, Sir William Golding

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Sep 17, 2011, 3:00pm

Monday, September 19th marks the centenary of one of the most famously contested of the Nobel literature laureates. My heart goes out to Golding's memory, for after working so hard and with such a troubled soul at being a great novelist, in the end, he is only a little more famous for penning LORD OF THE FLIES than for being the only writer in the history of the prize to inspire public dissent by a Nobel committee member.

After his award was announced, 77-year-old Swedish poet, Artur Lundkvist, said that Golding was "a small British phenomenon of no importance." Then, backpedaling, but only slightly, which may have been worse than not backpedaling at all, he said, "I simply didn't consider Golding to possess the international weight needed to win the prize, but that doesn't mean I am against him. He is a good author."

I've spent the past few weeks reading some of Golding's novels in an effort to ascertain what I think about him. Was Lundkvist right, or was he over-stating Golding's supposed mediocrity? So far, I've completed THE SPIRE, DARKNESS VISIBLE, and LORD OF THE FLIES. I am about to start PINCHER MARTIN, and after that, if I've not grown impatient to move on to other authors, I'll read THE INHERITORS. I'm still not sure what to think. His books are certainly fascinating, often beautifully, even startlingly, written. My guess is that he is too hamstrung by allegory to be an artist of the first rank, but he can be complex and moving and generate admirable suspense.

If I get my act together, I should have a post about him ready on Monday at my blog, THE STOCKHOLM SHELF (http://thestockholmshelf.com). I'd love to know how you feel about this author. What, if anything, have you read? What do you make of it?

Sep 23, 2011, 5:55am

I did, in fact get the post up about William Golding. He is a more interesting figure than most people realize. Here is the link to the actual post:


I hope you'll stop by.

Mar 31, 2012, 8:13pm

A few days ago I published a post on my blog (http://thestockholmshelf.com/2012/03/transcending-allegory-william-goldings-the-...) about William Golding's THE SPIRE. I wrote about how during my first reading of the novel, I was prejudiced by the bugaboos from which Golding's writing is reputed to suffer, notably, a reliance on allegory. But this novel, about the dean of a 13th century English cathedral (modeled on Salisbury cathedral), obsessed with executing his divine vision of erecting (word choice intended) on the cathedral a 400 foot spire, against all better judgement, haunted me with its strangeness, its melancholy, its rather austere beauty. So I re-read it to see what was there. Here is an excerpt from my post:

"I read with growing fascination as Dean Jocelin’s mania transformed him from a blind narcissist into a gargoyle (quite literally; a craftsman, dumb and smiling, carves his beaky visage to be placed on each of the four corners of the tower), which, in the end, cracks open to reveal a deeply flawed and broken human being. I tried rolling my eyes a little when the rains brought forth the smell of corruption from the open earth at the crossing where the tombs of long forgotten bishops had been disturbed, but found it somehow unsatisfying, as if caught in my own caginess rather than Golding’s. The singing pillars, in spite of their admittedly underlined reference to the fall awaiting the sin of Pride, nonetheless evoked a very real and hypnotic sense of menace. The play of Light (sun bursting through the stained glass windows) and Dark (the pit, human sacrifice) blurred in the cathedral’s dust-laden atmosphere.

In the end, it turned out that I had read, for a second time but as if for the first, a complex novel, not at all “underwritten”, whose final ambiguity enables it to transcend the sum of its frequently allegorical parts. Unlike with a bald faced allegory, such as Lord of the Flies, I emerged from The Spire unsure what to think, wondering just what had happened here, but having been deeply moved."

I hope some of you will stop by to read the rest of the post. But, in the mean time, I'd love to know if any of you have read this novel. Or if any of you have had a similar experience, a change of heart or mind about a work you thought you knew.

Mar 24, 2013, 5:10pm

Was listening to Stephen Fry in his programme on language (BBC Knowledge) and someone mentioned seeing Hamlet again after 10 years and thinking it had been re-written.