Wednesday, November 9, 2016

61 Books: #58

The project: to read 61 books, of whatever sort—short, long; literature, schlock; prose, poetry: you name it—before December 4, 2016.

The first ten books can be seen here. The second ten are here. Nos. 21–57 can be found . . . below (especially April–October of this year).

58. William Golding, Lord of the Flies (1954) (11/8/16)
I've known the basic story forever—a group of schoolboys, biguns and littluns, are stranded on a tropical island when their plane crashes after a nuclear war breaks out, and they grapple with their situation—but I'm pretty sure I'd never read this book before. So I thought it would be an appropriate read as we ran up to the election—which I firmly hoped, even believed, would go differently than it did.

I was for sure not prepared for the degree of violence in this book, the savagery. Nor was I prepared for it in the election. We are an incredible species.

At least this morning, and apparently last night (although I couldn't bear to listen), both candidates were measured and rallying: civilized and civilizing. We'll see how it goes come January, but I'm glad to have had Hillary, and I have no doubt that she will continue to work hard for this country.

This book has no such civilizing force, even at the end when an adult finally appears: he is, after all, an adult who is waging war, a larger-scale version of the island-based savagery that unfolds in the book's 202 pages.

The scenes with the suilline "Lord of the Flies" (which, an endnote explains, is a translation of the Hebrew Ba'alzevuv, or Beelzebub in Greek), and of the killings, in particular, are at once horrific and cinematic, bestial and mystical.

Here's a bit from just before it all goes to total hell:
Hands were reaching for the conch in the light of the setting sun. [Ralph] held on and leapt on the trunk.
     "All this I meant to say. Now I've said it. You voted me for chief. Now you do what I say."
     They quieted, slowly, and at last were seated again. Ralph dropped down and spoke in his ordinary voice.
     "So remember. The rocks for a lavatory. Keep the fire going and smoke showing as a signal. Don't take fire from the mountain. Take your food up there."
     Jack stood up, scowling in the gloom, and held out his hands.
     "I haven't finished yet."
     "But you've talked and talked!"
     "I've got the conch."
     Jack sat down, grumbling.
     "Then the last thing. This is what people can talk about."
     He waited till the platform was very still.
     "Things are breaking up. I don't understand why. We began well; we were happy. And then—"
     He moved the conch gently, looking beyond them at nothing, remembering the beastie, the snake, the fire, the talk of fear.
     "Then people started getting frightened."
     A murmur, almost a moan, rose and passed away. Jack had stopped whittling. Ralph went on, abruptly.
     "But that's littluns' talk. We'll get that straight. So the last part, the bit we can all talk about, is kind of deciding on fear."
     The hair was creeping into his eyes again.
     "We've got to talk about this fear and decide there's nothing in it. I'm frightened myself, sometimes; only that's nonsense! Like bogies. Then, when we've decided, we can start again and be careful about things like the fire." A picture of three boys walking along the bright beach flitted through his mind. "And be happy."

I'm glad I finally read this book, but I wish I'd finished it a bit sooner (i.e., not the very night of the election). In any case, now I think it's time to move on to something more lighthearted and positive. In terms of both a book to read and—if I can—my attitude toward our society and the future.

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