On “Lord of the Flies” and John Irving’s latestJune 27th, 2012 |
Lord of the Flies created quite a buzz when William Golding penned it in 1954, the year I graduated from high school. I feel no shame in admitting I had never read the slim volume, but for several days I’ve been acquainting myself with the characters, to wit: “Piggy,” so round, so firm, so fully packed. I’ll bet a pork chop that John Irving had Golding’s Piggy in mind when he wrote Saving Piggy Sneed.
Nor do I feel shame in admitting that “Flies” came into my life via my 12-year-old grandson. It’s on his summer reading list. The language is almost Dickensian, but well, old chaps, Golding was a headmaster in a tony English prep school. The word “wubber” gave me real pause. Grandson has been reading it to me, but today I slipped away for a few chapters on my own, racing ahead. It’s an easy read if you surf the sentences, not so if you ponder what lurks below.
I never brand books as summer fare, for literature of the fine kind is literature for anytime. That said, the action takes place on a tropical island (I imagine it to be in the Pacific chain). It begins when a plane crashes into the island’s mountain and lots of kids are set afoot to figure out how to survive without their parents. Golding served in the British military during WWII, and I get the strong feeling that the kids in his tale are imaginings about the kids who were bombed and blasted during those years.
So let’s say “Flies” begins in an Edenic garden, lush with fruit and romps in the sand and long lazy days with no adult supervision. Uh Oh. What to do, what to do? How to build shelter, hunt for meat and pray for rescue? After all, one can take only so much Eden before boredom and terror take over. I mean, who wants to eat fruit and walk around in the buff all day?
Speaking of terror, John Irving’s latest novel, In One Person, is a balls-out, no-holds-barred (Irving was a wrestler in college) horrifying tale of sexuality, both bi and not. It’s a tale of what it’s like to wither from AIDS and how our culture (the worst of our culture) classifies persons according to their sexual preferences. Irving has long taken issue with Christian hypocrites, you know those finger-pointers who righteously know, oh yes, that marriage is between one man and one woman, and ever shall it be writ. Remember when copies of Madame Bovary were secreted under mattresses across the world? Irving ties his tale to Bovary and Shakespeare, where what you see isn’t necessarily what you get. Can you say “penis,” without lisping? Can you say “zipper?” Can you say sensational?