The classicist Peter Green, in a loving review* of the biography "William Golding: The Man Who Wrote 'Lord of the Flies,'" by John Carey--Green knew Golding well--describes the story of the publication of Golding's most famous novel as akin to "a fairy tale."
This was the reaction, for example, of the "professional reader" at Faber & Faber, the distinguished literary house in London:
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 book, however, had one champion at Faber--a new hire, Charles Monteith--who eventually won the day (though he insisted on significant editorial changes). So ambivalent were the publishers about the book that they did not inform T.S. Eliot, who served as a literary adviser, of its existence. Green writes:
Told, at his club, that 'Faber had published an unpleasant novel about small boys behaving unspeakably on a desert island,' Eliot at once, in some alarm, got hold of a copy, read it, and .... 'told Monteith next day that he had found it not only a splendid novel but morally and theologically impeccable.'"
The rest is ninth-grade English-class history.
*New Republic subscribers only, but most of this anecdote appears in front of the paywall.
The author is solely responsible for the content.
Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.
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Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."
Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.
Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.