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William Golding: Paper Men

This is not Golding’s greatest work by a long shot, though it may be his funniest, bearing in mind that Golding doesn’t do funny. To a great extent, it is Golding saying how much he dislikes the lit crit business, His hero, Wilfred Barclay, is a successful novelist. Inevitably, he is at a crisis point in his life – drink, failing marriage, spiritual crisis, the usual stuff. Enter one Rick L. Tucker, American professor of literature, determined to be Barclay’s official biographer. Indeed, Tucker is so determined that he follows Barclay everywhere, goes through his rubbish and even offers Barclay his wife in exchange of access to his papers. The satire is heavy-handed but makes its point well. At the same time, as this is Golding, Barclay becomes somewhat of a Christ-like figure, going through various torments and even having stigmata, before getting his salvation from Professor Tucker. Not a great book in Golding’s oeuvre but still enjoyable.

Publishing history

First published 1984 by Faber & Faber