Sunday, 9 August 2009

John Carey's Biography

The official publication date for John Carey's biography is 3 September. On 29 September at 6.30pm John Carey will be talking with Mark Lawson about the biography at the conference centre of the British Library. Tickets (£6/£4) are bookable at the British Library box office, or by calling 01937 546546.

According to Faber's synopsis, the biography will reveal 'a many-sided figure: a war-hero, a reclusive depressive who considered himself a "monster", a family man, a victim of fears and phobias who battled against alcoholism, and a writer who trusted the imagination above all things.'

I have one reservation. The subtitle (The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies) concedes a case which did not need to be acknowledged. I can see the argument for hooking readers before showing them in the biography itself why Golding amounts to so much more than Lord of the Flies. But the subtitle narrows Golding's achievement unnecessarily. Was the decision made by the biographer or the marketing department?

That matter aside, I am looking forward to this book more than any for a very long time. Golding tantalises his readers with novels which have autobiographical elements: the Marlborough/Stilbourne setting of The Pyramid; the meeting of Sammy and Taffy (both already engaged to others) in Free Fall; the alcoholic novelist wealthy on account of one book's success in The Paper Men. At last we will find out when and where (and whether) the autobiography stopped.

Update: See here for my view of the 'rape' story.


  1. On Front Row today, Carey said the choice of subtitle was his. In random chats with the British public, he'd discovered that hardly anyone had heard of William G, but everyone had heard of Lord of the Flies. He said the choice was ironic, though, because there was so much more to WG that LOTF.

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