Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Golding the Wannabe Rapist?

Some rather unsavoury aspects of author, William Golding, have come to light after John Carey, the emeritus professor of English literature at Oxford university, was given access to a personal journal kept by Golding. Among them, that he tried to rape a 13 year old girl while a teenager himself; that as a teacher at a public school he tried to set boys against one another in the manner of Lord of the Flies; and that he depended on drink to help him fight his demons.

Kathryn Hughes on The Guardian blog is concerned that Golding will be remembered as a sensational headline, and she observes :
Golding knew perfectly well that he was leaving behind an incendiary story that Carey was bound to pass on to the rest of the world. This raises the interesting possibility that Golding was secretly keen to be shown to posterity as a bit of an animal. Much of his work, including of course Lord of the Flies, concerns the beast which lies just below man's civilised surface. What better way to advertise the authenticity of your work than to reveal just what a savage soul lurked beneath the meek and mild outer facade of the Nobel laureate and Booker prize winner?
Sam Leith in The London Evening Standard is refreshingly cynical :
The usual balls gets spouted about the “dark side of genius”, the “sliver of ice” or “demons”. But really the duty of the biographer to his publishers is to produce a news story for which a Sunday newspaper will pay: and it's hard to avoid the conclusion that a literary biography without a sex-Nazi, child-slavery, and/or hamster-rape angle is now dead in the water as a publishing proposition.
And nothing, no nothing, anyone can dig up about his private life can knock Golding off his pedestal for me. And I guess that goes for any other author I revere. In fact, for any author ...

Postscript :

Christopher Howe in The Telegraph lists some other authors who had a rather shady past. Among the revelations :
Geoffrey Chaucer faced a lawsuit alleging his rape of a girl called Cicely Champaigne, a baker's daughter.
Postscript 2

Just came across this nice quote from Paul Theroux* which seems to make sense in this context:
If you look into history, you won't find many jolly, well-balanced people who were writers. I mean, look at them. ... In a way, you can't be a writer unless you have sort of a personality problem. Balanced people don't become writers, obviously. Balanced people become gardeners, they raise happy families, they go to work every day, they smile. They have noodle salad.
(Originally from CNN website, now longer online.)


Anonymous said...

Lord of The Unzipped Flies!

- Poppadumdum

bibliobibuli said...

i love that line too LOL