Monday, August 15, 2005

Sounds about right

Salon.com Books | Reading "Lord of the Flies":
I willfully failed to read William Golding's "Lord of the Flies." I did start it, with the best of intentions. But it lost me, soon after I realized there was a character named Piggy. According to the copy I have sitting in front of me, which happens to be the same edition that I chucked in a corner almost two decades ago, that's on Page 11.

Up until the "LOTF" incident (I think of it as "LOTF" because that's how Laura -- Quaker school, teachers went by first names -- used to write it on the board when assigning pages that I had no intention of reading) I had been a diligent student. But this was the (text-appropriate) moment at which I broke free of the dictates of academic structure and behaved badly, the instant when I realized that I could pass tests and even write papers without reading the book. It was an exercise that would be repeated occasionally in high school and college, but "LOTF" was my maiden backsliding voyage.

I was not without my reasons. See, even without having read the book, I managed to glean -- from the class discussion I tuned in for and thanks to the helpful cover illustration of a little boy all done up like a savage -- that Golding's novel was not one of the subtler texts in the Western canon. I got the point: Young men left to their own devices will go wild, massacring pigs and eventually each other; human nature, outside of controlled conditions, is a destructive and untamed force. Yawn.
My experience was identical. Did anyone actually read LotF? Because I have a study with n=2 indicating that no one read it, and that they all didn't read it for the same reasons. It was heavy handed and obvious, and the writing was, if I recall, not that engaging.

Interestingly, the same strategy got me around Plato's Republic, and I really wish I'd read it.