“Showing familiar things from an alien viewpoint.”

There was a really interesting review in the New York Times a day or two ago of John Carey’s new biography of William Golding. Reading Lord of the Flies when I was 14 or so really knocked the pins out from under me. I was still a small-town boy, unsophisticated and parochial to a degree that would be hard to duplicate today, and this book forced me—bullied me, really—to think about circumstance, and about culture, habit, and fear, their presence and absence, and their effects on what we generally call morality. Heavy. And I was utterly unprepared, intellectually and morally, for this particular wrestling match. (The fact that I read Jonathan Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God at about the same time didn’t help: God or no God, you’re screwed.)

The review calls Golding “a laureate of humiliation,” asserts that he was “in touch with his darkest impulses, especially his own sublimated bent toward cruelty,” and quotes him saying, “I have always understood the Nazis, because I am of that sort by nature.” In the circumstances, I suppose it was appropriate that Golding scared the hell out of me.

On the other hand, the review’s title is “Talent for Writing, and Falling Into Things,” it describes Golding as something of a lovable bumbler, and reviewer Dwight Garner says that Carey “portrays Golding, a man of constant sorrow, in a warm, fondly comic light.”

All I can say, before my circuits short out, is, This I gotta read.

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