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MikeAlx

The Difficult Gestation of Lord of the Flies

I found this article in the Sunday Times about the path to publication of William Golding's Lord of the Flies a very interesting read. In the case of works of classic status, it's easy to slip into the trap of thinking somehow they came into the world fully formed, simply squeezed out from the mind of a genius who never had any doubt as to what must be done. This article reminds one that good art is almost always the result of struggle and uncertainty - and that behind most great books there is a great editor as well as a great author.

In this case it was Charles Monteith. Reading about the changes he negotiated to Golding's manuscript, it's easy to see that the original must have been a vastly inferior book. It's also testament to his power as a talent-spotter that he put any faith in the book at all. A reader for another publisher had given the following verdict: "Time: the Future. Absurd & uninteresting fantasy about the explosion of an atom bomb on the Colonies. A group of children who land in jungle-country near New Guinea. Rubbish & dull. Pointless".

The most disturbing fact in all this is the realisation that, had the publishing industry then been as it is today, in all likelihood the book would never have been published at all.
spidernick

An interesting article, Mike.  I had heard the story of the rejections previously and that the novel had not originally opened very well, with most publishers giving up after the first few pages.  As you say, today it would most likely not have been published.

My wife grew up in Salisbury and her brother attended the school at which Golding taught.  I won't comment on the morals of writing a novel while supposedly engaged in teaching, but I think it says much of the education system in 1950s' grammar schools!
Evie

Why is it morally dubious to write a novel while teaching?
spidernick

Because he was writing it in class when he was supposed to be teaching, not in his free time.
Evie

Oh, fair enough!  I haven't read the article.  Though I can't say I blame him - am just impressed that he could concentrate with a class of children there!
Green Jay

Evie wrote:
am just impressed that he could concentrate with a class of children there!


Absolutely. Smile

From what I've read, Golding sounds an unpleasant man. Just shows it's not really a good thing to know too much about an author. I'm sometimes curious, and feel knowing background can shed light, but on the other hand (completely illogical contradiction) I want the fiction or poetry to stand on its own, and not be possibly "contaminated" by what I subsequently find out. Also, any biography is still a partial view.
Green Jay

I've just properly noticed the title of this thread, and it sounds like a brilliant title for a novel itself!  Wink

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