Saturday, August 14, 2010


In the midst of reading Wuthering Heights, Entering the Stone (see the Shelfari link at right), and slices of various other things (gave up on Martha Nussbaum's Not for Profit about a quarter of the way in: though I agreed at the start with her thesis that a liberal arts education is necessary for a vibrant democracy, she made broad statements that kept returning to the same details for support, jumping back and forth between Dewey and India's Tagore for her sole touchstones, so the whole thing felt like a weak undergraduate paper), I'm reading large pieces of William Golding: The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies (was there ever a worse subtitle?), a new work by John Carey.

I read most of what there was about Golding's childhood and his teaching career, but none of the chapter about the war years, being more interested in how his writing career took off. Lord of the Flies is a testament, it turns out, to having a terrific editor. Charles Montieth happened to see Golding's novel in the rejection pile at Faber & Faber, and he became a champion for the book. He had Golding strip away several sections that weren't in Golding's first manuscript but that Golding had added (the set-up for the novel; an air battle at the halfway point; a naval battle at the end); he actually removed much of the explicit religious and theological weight of the novel (mostly centered on Simon) so that the book had a more realistic core and understandable motivations on the part of its characters; he helped Golding tighten the writing.

Golding took those lessons about writing into his next two books, The Inheritors and Pincher Martin, both of which I've read and both of which are marvelous. Now I want to read more Golding. The more I come to know of him, the more I appreciate his work. His Nobel lecture, here, reshaped my view of Lord of the Flies, expanding it to see a greater soul than I'd realized behind the work.

As I work on my latest short story, I'm also emboldened to push the narrative into odder places. Its ordinariness had been bothering me in any case. Hopefully I've come upon a stronger structure and story engine.

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