Friday, September 17, 2004

William Golding's Lord of the Flies published 50 years ago today

First posted 6/15/2020; updated 7/6/2020.

Lord of the Flies

William Golding

First Publication: September 17, 1954

Category: young adult fiction/allegory

Sales: ?


About the Book:

“Before The Hunger Games there was Lord of the Flies,” BN “one of the greatest books ever written for young adults and an unforgettable classic for readers of any age.” AZ “Labeled a parable, an allegory, a myth, a morality tale, a parody, a political treatise, even a vision of the apocalypse,” BN this “novel by Nobel Prize–winning British author William Golding” WK “has established itself as a true classic” BN which ”remains as provocative today as when it was first published.” BN

“Though critically acclaimed, it was largely ignored upon its initial publication. Yet soon it became a cult favorite among both students and literary critics who compared it to J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye in its influence on modern thought and literature.” BN

“At the dawn of the next world war, a plane crashes on an uncharted island, stranding a group of schoolboys. At first, with no adult supervision, their freedom is something to celebrate. This far from civilization they can do anything they want. Anything. But as order collapses, as strange howls echo in the night, as terror begins its reign, the hope of adventure seems as far removed from reality as the hope of being rescued.” AZ The book then becomes a “startling, brutal portrait of human nature” AZ as it focuses in on the boys’ “disastrous attempt to govern themselves.” WK

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Sunday, February 1, 2004

Kira-Kira: What Gives a Book Its Glitter?

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On the first page of Kira-Kira the main character, Katie, explains that the word means "glittering" in Japanese. As the book jacket says, Katie sees the world as glittering through the eyes of her older sister, Lynn. It doesn't take a genius at sketching out plots to guess that this is a sure sign that something will happen to Lynn. In the interest of not spoiling the book, however, I will leave it at that.

Instead my focus is on how to give a book its glittering quality. What makes it special? What makes it stand out above others? Certainly good writing, solid characters, and an intriguing story all contribute. There is, however, another ingredient which really makes a book shine. Imagination.

I believe a book is better when it has a fantastical element to it. What do I mean by that? Well, I'm a sucker for a very realistic story - with a twist. Craft a solid tale which feels real and throw in something quirky and you've got a good chance of hooking me. I cite John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany as an example. It is one of my favorite books precisely because it creates a believable world around a have-to-see-him-to-believe-him character.

This leads me to the challenge of Kira-Kira. As regular followers of this blog know, I'm on a mission to read all the Newbery winners. Kira-Kira won the Newbery in 2005. For me, however, it lacks glitter. It is a well-written story, but it feels so real that it reads more like an autobiography than fiction. It may be that author Cynthia Kadohata isn't writing from personal experience at all. Maybe she imagined all the events in the book. My take, though, is that too much reality is, well, too much. I want something magical, something imaginary, something fantastical. I want the glitter. What do you think?