- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Faber & Faber (April 1, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0571225462
- ISBN-13: 978-0571225460
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 20 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,199,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Spire Paperback – April 1, 2005
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In the 14th century, when men broke their backs and lost their lives toiling with stone to build the great cathedrals, Den Jocelin is visited by an angel who tells him to erect a spire upon a building that has no foundations. Despised as a lunatic and self-deceiver, Jocelin's will forces the spire upwards, course by course, until the pillars begin to sing and the earth to crawl. Golding's exposition of one man's struggle with the noble and ignoble sides of his nature confirmed him in 1964 as a writer of fantastic imaginative power, and the magic of this book is still extraordinarily potent to me today. (Kirkus (UK)) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
William Golding was born in Cornwall in 1911 and was educated at Marlborough Grammar School and at Brasenose College, Oxford. Before he became a schoolmaster he was an actor, a lecturer, a small-boat sailor and a musician. A now rare volume, Poems, appeared in 1934. In 1940 he joined the Royal Navy and saw action against battleships, and also took part in the pursuit of the Bismarck. He finished the war as a Lieutenant in command of a rocket ship, which was off the French coast for the D-Day invasion, and later at the island of Welcheren. After the war he returned to Bishop Wordsworth's School in Salisbury and was there when his first novel, Lord of the Flies, was published in 1954. He gave up teaching in 1961. Lord of the Flies was filmed by Peter Brook in 1963. Golding listed his hobbies as music, chess, sailing, archaeology and classical Greek (which he taught himself). Many of these subjects appear in his essay collections The Hot Gates and A Moving Target. He won the Booker Prize for his novel Rites of Passage in 1980, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983. He was knighted in 1988. He died at his home in the summer of 1993. The Double Tongue, a novel left in draft at his death, was published in June 1995.
Top customer reviews
What interested me in the book is actually visiting Salisbury cathedral in England and seeing the impossible spire myself. Golding taught at the school attached to Salisbury cathedral and this inspired his story. The hubris of building the tallest tower and stone spire in England on top of thin pillars never meant to hold the weight, themselves built on 4' deep foundations set on wet gravel is amazing. The fact this this was done in the thirteen hundreds is amazing and might inspire one to faith.
Read this classic and then go to see that cathedral that has been continually about to fall since the middle ages.
Ultimately, we are confronted with the complex character of the man who drives up the spire; Dean Jocelin. Golding leaves us with an ambiguous and unanswered question; is the man a megalomaniac or a visionary? His vanity, his ignorance, his undeserved privilege are all significant weak elements of his character. So is his obsession with driving up the spire, no matter what the cost. We are left unsure as to what part his sickness plays, and what part his own infliction of the discipline plays in that sickness; in other words, does his sickness cause madness, and to what extent is the sickness itself, self-inflicted? Finally, how much of his vision is divinely inspired? At the end, even the fate of the spire is left ambiguous; it still stands, but for how long; and will it fall eventually?
Some historical background does give a certain perspective to the novel. Golding was at one time a teacher at Bishop Wordsworth's School in Salisbury, where his study window looked out upon the spire of Salisbury Cathedral. The spire built by Jocelin and the cathedral upon which it is built, are clearly based on Salisbury, including the nature of the swampy ground and the foundations. Salisbury's spire is at 404 feet, the same height as Jocelin's spire, the tallest in the UK. It leans 24 inches to the South. In the novel, Roger Mason, the master builder, wants to abandon Jocelin and go to Malmesbury to build a spire there. Interestingly, the spire on Malmesbury Abbey fell during a severe storm in 1550, while the Salisbury spire remains intact. (Salisbury's spire was damaged some years after its completion, but was successfully restored.) All this seems to suggest that there is, after all, a religious and spiritual element in Jocelin's vision. In the end, though, Golding answers nothing. He creates a gripping and convincing account of the era, and leaves it to the reader to decide whether Jocelin is a fanatic or a visionary, a venal obsessive compulsive or a spiritually inspired visionary. The novel does not allow a superficial or two-dimensional answer; every conclusion about Jocelin's character is sufficiently contradicted by other elements in the story to make it not quite tenable. It is precisely this complex ambiguity that makes of The Spire such a great novel.