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William Golding: The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies Hardcover – Bargain Price, June 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this trenchant portrait, British critic Carey weaves masterful readings of Golding's work with intimate details about his life. Drawing on newly available materials-including Golding's never-before seen journal-Carey chronicles Golding's life from his relatively isolated and unhappy childhood, and his struggles as a young writer trapped in a schoolteacher position, to his winning of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983. Such early praise elevated Golding's first novel to heights that made the novel became better known than the novelist. Despite praise, Lord of the Flies was not an immediate bestseller. Golding's subsequent novels (among them The Inheritors and Pincher Martin) fared little better with critics and booksellers-until 1958, when literary critic Frank Kermode praised Pincher Martin as the work of a philosophical novelist whose great theme was the Fall of Man. As a writer-in-residence at Hollins College in America, Golding had finally earned enough success to be published in paperback. In spite of his glory, Golding remained sensitive throughout his life, battling fears of being alone in the dark, the supernatural, insects, and writing (as Carey elegantly enunciates, Golding's greatest fear was of not writing; he continued writing to postpone the terror of having nothing more to write).
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Lord of the Flies may be one of the most powerful (and widely taught) novels in postwar English literature, but until now, a comprehensive biography of William Golding has not been available. One suspects this may be because of the sheer difficulty of attaining some sort of perspective on the writer, whose complicated personality and enigmatic, symbol-laden works present prospective biographers with a formidable literary-psychological knot. And yet Carey’s biography soars, presenting a nuanced and sensitive portrait of the small-town schoolteacher with a proclivity for Greek mythology and abiding class issues, the wartime ship’s captain perennially drawn to the power of the sea, and the extraordinarily talented (if often blocked) writer who used fiction to plumb the murky depths of his subconscious. Recognizing Golding as a literary outsider and embracing him as such, the anti-elitist Carey (The Intellectuals and the Masses, 2002) may be the perfect explicator for Golding’s life; he also enjoyed the benefit of 5,000 pages of Golding’s diaries, which, including summaries of his dreams, seem to have helped sew together Golding’s life and art. Likely to lead Lord of the Flies fans to Golding’s other works, this book is highly recommended. --Brendan Driscoll

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (June 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439187320
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439187326
  • ASIN: B0048ELF7Q
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.8 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,919,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Ryan Williams on September 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
You know what to expect in advance from John Carey. With any other author, that would be a bad thing. With Carey, it's part of his integrity. In the introduction to Original Copy, his 1987 selection of reviews and journalism, Carey reminds that us that 'given the nature of subjective nature of literary judgement, the reader has a right to know what sort of person will be laying down the law in the rest of book - what his quirks and prejudices are, and what sort of background has formed him.'

So with this, Carey's long (and eagerly) awaited biography of Golding, you expect the law to cheer on grammar schools, vegetable gardening and divided personalities, and sneer at snobbery, Dons and magical thinking. Golding's dabbling with anthroposophy, you think, is in for a particular thrashing. And as for Golding's public-schooled contemporaries at Brasenose College....

But that's half the fun, of course. Flaubert said that when you write a friend's biography, you must do it as though you were taking revenge on his behalf. Whether you agree that Golding was the abject literary outsider that Carey makes him out to be, you still share his partisan sense of outrage. Take the film critic C.A. Lejeune's response, in chapter fourteen, to Pincher Martin: 'To me it belongs to a class of reading that I deplore, which looks at nothing except what I call the underbelly of the human body, and it sees nothing except what I call the nasty side of it, the horrid side of it.' Behind that you can hear the objection of every person who has ever junked a great book because it's 'too grim', 'depressing' or - this above all - 'doesn't teach me anything'. Carey's response makes gratifying reading, as does his response to Auberon Waugh ('so clearly the voice of a Young Turk eager to make a splash').
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is the first authorized biography of William Golding, one of the 20th century's greatest novelists. Golding, who died in 1993 aged 81, was a prolific novelist who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983. Sir William (he was knighted in 1988) was best known for `Lord of the Flies', his first published novel.

This biography was written by John Carey, the literary critic and English literature professor at Oxford. Professor Carey was given access to the previously private archive of Golding, which consists of three unpublished novels, two autobiographical works and a journal of over two million words. While Professor Carey had a wealth of information to work with, it must have been difficult deciding what was most relevant.

After reading this biography, I am moved to read more of Golding's novels, and to reread others. William Golding lived a full and interesting life but it seems that he was often paralyzed by self-doubt and was unable to appreciate the strength of his own writing gift. I have yet to read `Pincher Martin' `The Spire' and `Rites of Passage'. I will reread `The Lord of the Flies' and `Darkness Visible' with a greater appreciation of the man behind the novelist.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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Format: Kindle Edition
I noticed this book and decided that I didn't know about William Golding, and that was John Carey's intent when he titled the book. Carey's well researched and indepth work shows that Golding is more than just the author of "Lord of the Flies." But Carey does too well in explaining the man. He quotes Golding describing himself and Lord of the Flies, "What a good book Lord of the Flies is. I've just re-read it and am quite convinced I never wrote it. I'ts much bigger than I am." The reader of this book must agree with Golding himself: he is a vile, little man who is abusive and difficult. Carey does his job, perhaps too well.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on June 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In his copious diary entries, William Golding, by then a "Sir," reported that only in India did his stories of "his bullying other children at primary school" meet with "the silence of incomprehension or shock." Elsewhere, he was able to stir his audiences to laughter about this dark subject, arguably the generative theme of his most famous book.

Golding started his working life as a public school teacher whose interests included piano, poetry, science, women and drinking. His marriage began with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy and lasted the rest of his life, his wife Ann one of the few people who was completely honest with him. Her unique ability to manage him, drunk or sober, caused his sponsors to decide it made good economic sense to pay to have Ann along on his speaking tours because he became so muddled without her. As the biographer puts it, "she realized the only thing that made him unhappier than writing was not writing."

LORD OF THE FLIES was Golding's first complete novel, and almost certainly his greatest, if perennial audience response is a measure of success. It is clearly his best known book among American readers. Its publication was midwifed with care by its booster at Faber and Faber, Charles Monteith, after it had been famously rejected by other editors, even within the same company.

Monteith knew that authors don sackcloth when they get a negative review and spring back to write again when the critics' words flow their way. So he fed Golding on flattery and goaded him with exhortations to make the next book even better. His subsequent three were great, no doubt.
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