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Out of the Gothic

Tom Shippey, 5 February 1987

Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction 
by Brian Aldiss and David Wingrove.
Gollancz, 511 pp., £15, October 1986, 0 575 03942 6
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by Greg Bear.
Gollancz, 504 pp., £10.95, October 1986, 0 575 03861 6
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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Four Parts 
by Douglas Adams.
Heinemann, 590 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 434 00920 2
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Humpty Dumpty in Oakland 
by Philip K. Dick.
Gollancz, 199 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 575 03875 6
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The Watcher 
by Jane Palmer.
Women’s Press, 177 pp., £2.50, September 1986, 0 7043 4038 0
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I, Vampire 
by Jody Scott.
Women’s Press, 206 pp., £2.50, September 1986, 0 7043 4036 4
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... answer the Wellsian position in vaguely Wellsian terms’, but this does not ring true. William Golding perhaps did that in Lord of the Flies (cp. Moreau), in The Inheritors (cp. ‘The Grisly Folk’), in ‘Envoy Extraordinary’ (cp. Wells’s Outline of History): but Lewis would deny every one of Wells’s fundamental propositions. What one ...

Flying the flag

Patrick Parrinder, 18 November 1993

The Modern British Novel 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Secker, 512 pp., £20, October 1993, 0 436 20132 1
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After the War: The Novel and English Society since 1945 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 310 pp., £17.99, September 1993, 9780701137694
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... and re-crossed by many of the novelists he most admires, including the three (Angela Carter, William Golding and Angus Wilson) to whose memory his book is dedicated. The result is a history of the modern novel in which the coincidence of the mainstream and the canon are taken for granted. D.J. Taylor also confines a his attentions to mainstream ...

Fire and Ice

Patrick O’Brian, 20 April 1989

Fire Down Below 
by William Golding.
Faber, 313 pp., £11.95, March 1989, 0 571 15203 1
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... William Golding’s new novel, Fire Down Below is the third volume of a trilogy, the other parts being Rites of Passage and Close Quarters. The trilogy is about a voyage to Sydney in 1813, and a bald, merely literal account might run like this ... On the first page the hero appears, Edmund FitzHenry Talbot, an unformed young man of good family who is going out to help govern New South Wales in an aged line-of-battle ship, Captain Anderson commander, and who has been given a book in which to record his journey by his godfather, an influential peer ...

Looking away

Michael Wood, 18 May 1989

First Light 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 328 pp., £12.95, April 1989, 0 241 12498 0
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The Chymical Wedding 
by Lindsay Clarke.
Cape, 542 pp., £12.95, April 1989, 0 224 02537 6
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The Northern Lights 
by Howard Norman.
Faber, 236 pp., £4.99, April 1989, 0 571 15474 3
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... borrows a few tics from Dickens, strays at times (unintentionally, I think) into the territory of William Golding and Iris Murdoch – but it does go in for resurrection in a big way. It digs up the past in all directions. The major strand of the plot concerns an archaeological site in Dorset, the excavation of a tumulus thought to be about 4500 years ...


Giles Gordon: Experimental Sideshows, 7 October 1993

... cerebral and beautiful. It aspired to art and was art. Notwithstanding marvellously rich work by William Golding, Iris Murdoch and the grossly under-rated Angus Wilson, the English novel at this time seemed to some of us to be pottering into near-extinction as a serious art form. As Johnson put it, ‘literary forms do become exhausted, clapped out, as ...


James Wood: ‘Life of Pi’, 14 November 2002

Life of Pi 
by Yann Martel.
Canongate, 319 pp., £12.99, May 2002, 1 84195 245 1
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... anguish, it is necessary for representation – i.e. language – to become anguished, as William Golding in Pincher Martin knew. Pi never stops being charming. More damaging to Pi’s integrity as a fictional character is that, having been established as a boy with an omnivorous spiritual hunger, he hardly ever thinks of God while at sea. There ...

Beating the Bounds

Adam Mars-Jones: Jim Crace, 21 February 2013

by Jim Crace.
Picador, 273 pp., £16.99, February 2013, 978 0 330 44566 5
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... Despair is riding its lame horse.’ If there’s a pattern for Crace’s career, it’s perhaps William Golding. The suggestion isn’t new: Frank Kermode proposed it on the basis of a shared imaginative intensity, an ‘almost fanatical concentration on a particular time and a particular object’. Kermode, reviewing Crace’s Quarantine, cited The ...

Blood Relations

J.I.M. Stewart, 1 December 1983

Diversity and Depth in Fiction: Selected Critical Writings of Angus Wilson 
edited by Kerry McSweeny.
Secker, 303 pp., £15, August 1983, 0 436 57610 4
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... finding a place for transcendent values, must be the pursuit of English novelists.’ It is William Golding who comes top here: he has ‘wed his sense of a transcendent evil and good to the fully felt social novel that the English have constructed in their great tradition’. Few people will dissent, I imagine, from this rating of Mr ...

Planes, Trains and SUVs

Jonathan Raban: James Meek, 7 February 2008

We Are Now Beginning Our Descent 
by James Meek.
Canongate, 295 pp., £16.99, February 2008, 978 1 84195 988 7
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... novelist, he has confounded his readers’ expectations with a work utterly unlike his last. William Golding – another ironic pasticheur – used to do this unfailingly, to the bemusement of reviewers who wanted to keep him permanently pegged to his recasting of Ballantyne in Lord of the Flies. Like ...

Eaten by Owls

Michael Wood: Mervyn Peake, 26 January 2012

Peake’s Progress: Selected Writings and Drawings of Mervyn Peake 
edited by Maeve Gilmore.
British Library, 576 pp., £25, June 2011, 978 0 7123 5834 7
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The Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy 
by Mervyn Peake.
Vintage, 943 pp., £25, June 2011, 978 0 09 952854 8
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Titus Awakes 
by Maeve Gilmore and Mervyn Peake.
Vintage, 288 pp., £7.99, June 2011, 978 0 09 955276 5
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Complete Nonsense 
by Mervyn Peake.
Fyfield, 242 pp., £14.95, July 2011, 978 1 84777 087 5
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A Book of Nonsense 
by Mervyn Peake.
Peter Owen, 87 pp., £9.99, June 2011, 978 0 7206 1361 2
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... The story, reprinted in Peake’s Progress, first appeared alongside stories by John Wyndham and William Golding in 1956, in a collection called Sometime, Never. Taken together the three stories read more like fables than fantasy or science fiction, and they glance curiously at the contemporary world they are not directly seeking to imitate. But whereas ...

Qui s’accuse, s’excuse

Terry Eagleton: In confessional mode, 1 June 2000

Troubling Confessions: Speaking Guilt in Law and Literature 
by Peter Brooks.
Chicago, 207 pp., £17, May 2000, 0 226 07585 0
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... sins to a priest is like coughing to a cop, will hardly stand up against, say, the theology of William Blake. The name ‘Satan’ in the Old Testament means something like ‘accuser’, and represents the demonic image of God of those who insist on regarding him as an avenging judge. Part of the point in seeing God in this hostile, Nobodaddy fashion is ...

All my eye and Betty Martin

Roy Harris, 1 December 1983

A Dictionary of Mottoes 
by L.G. Pine.
Routledge, 303 pp., £9.95, October 1983, 9780710093394
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Newspeak: A Dictionary of Jargon 
by Jonathon Green.
Routledge, 263 pp., £9.95, October 1983, 0 7100 9685 2
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The Oxford Miniguide to English Usage 
by E.S.C. Weiner.
Oxford, 412 pp., £1.95, October 1983, 0 19 869127 0
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The Oxford Dictionary of Current Idiomatic English: Volume II 
by A.P. Cowrie, R. Mackin and I.R. McCaig.
Oxford, 685 pp., £12.50, October 1983, 0 19 431150 3
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A Dictionary of the Teenage Revolution and its Aftermath 
by Kenneth Hudson.
Macmillan, 203 pp., £12.95, October 1983, 0 333 28517 4
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A Dictionary of Catch-Phrases 
by Eric Partridge.
Routledge, 278 pp., £5.95, October 1983, 0 7100 9989 4
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... The ‘popular’ writers are people like Arnold Wesker, H.E. Bates, Kingsley Amis and William Golding. Needless to say, the idioms which the BBC, the newspapers and the ‘popular’ writers are free to indulge in are those which pass the cultural censorship which dictionary-makers themselves exercise. So there is no breaking out of the ...


Ian Hamilton, 1 October 1987

The Haw-Lantern 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 52 pp., £7.95, June 1987, 0 571 14780 1
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... of high vocation as of obedient professionalism: a Phi Beta Kappa poem for Harvard, a poem for William Golding on his 75th birthday, a poem for Amnesty International, Irish Section, on Human Rights Day, 1985. And there are signs, too, that Heaney has set himself to learn from the oblique, clandestine parables and allegories which poets of Eastern ...


Frank Kermode, 8 June 1995

Angus Wilson 
by Margaret Drabble.
Secker, 714 pp., £20, May 1995, 0 436 20038 4
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... of writers who were his friends. His last novel might have won the Booker Prize, but it went to William Golding, whom Wilson, though disappointed, gallantly congratulated. He himself attributed his ill fortune partly to philistine reviewers, singling out Auberon Waugh, but more generally to his failure to please the young. The young he knew best from a ...


Richard Lloyd Parry: Alex Garland, 15 October 1998

The Beach 
by Alex Garland.
Penguin, 439 pp., £5.99, June 1997, 0 14 025841 8
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The Tesseract 
by Alex Garland.
Viking, 215 pp., £9.99, September 1998, 0 670 87016 1
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... of Heart of Darkness. As a jungle adventure, it has as much in common with Willard Price as William Golding, a sophisticated adolescent book in which it is sometimes difficult to distinguish Richard’s callowness and blind spots from those of his creator. Most striking is the absence of any sexual intrigue among the travellers, apart from ...

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