Book choice for November 2008

One Big Damn Puzzler [suggested by Myra Bordon]

front cover

Is be or is be not, is be one big damn puzzler...  On the day the plane brought the white man to the island, Managua was, as usual, preoccupled with his translation of Hamlet.  As the only islander who could read, let alone write, he felt the burden of his culture rested plenty damn heavy upon his shoulders.  The plane's arrival meant he'd have to put aside his work, strap on his leg and make his way to the landing beach to greet the newcomer.  The island had welcomed visitors before, of course.  The British had been there, rather noncommittally, but they had bequeathed their language, half a hotel, the small pigs that now ran wild in the jungle, and Shakespeare.  Then the Americans with their military base, its soldiers and guns.  That had not been a happy time - as the many landmine casualties testified - apart from the Coca Cola.  And there was Miss Lucy, who had embraced island life and its traditions, even if she did over-indulge those silly She-Boys.  But what to make of this new arrival, this young lawyer from America with his strange nervous gestures and his fervent belief in doing the right thing and winning reparation for the Islanders?  Managua sensed that William Hardt's coming to the island would change everything.  And he would be proved plenty damn right...  This achingly funny, rich and supremely moving novel confirms John Harding as one of contemporary fiction's most entertaining and observant chroniclers of the human condition.

About the Author

John Harding was born in a small Fenland village in the Isle of Ely in 1951.  After local village and grammar schools, he read English at St Catherine's College, Oxford, where he once sat next to Martin Amis during a lecture.  He worked first as a newspaper reporter, then as a writer and editor in magazines, before becoming a freelance writer.  His first novel was the acclaimed and bestselling What We Did On Our Holiday.  He lives in Richmond upon Thames with his wife and two sons.

Amazingly, John Harding has neither a website nor a page on Wikipedia, but there is some material here.


Shortlisted for this month

The nominator can now decide whether to bring one, two, or three books to be chosen by the group (or mandated in the case of only one book being selected).  This month, Myra brought The Time Traveler's Wife, which unfortunately we had to disallow as the club has already read it (it was, in fact, our very first read). Her second alternative was:

Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies is an allegorical novel by Nobel Prize-winning author William Golding.  It discusses how culture created by man fails, using as an example a group of British schoolboys stuck on a deserted island who try to govern themselves with disastrous results.  Its stances on the already controversial subjects of human nature and individual welfare versus the common good earned it position 70 on the American Library Association's list of the 100 most frequently challenged books of 1990-2000.  In 2005, the novel was chosen by TIME magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present.

Published in 1954, Lord of the Flies was Golding's first novel, and although it was not a great success at the time - selling fewer than three thousand copies in the United States during 1955 before going out of print - it soon went on to become a bestseller, and by the early 1960s was required reading in many schools and colleges.  It was adapted to film in 1963 by Peter Brook, and again in 1990 by Harry Hook.

The title is said to be a reference to the Hebrew name Beelzebub ("god of the fly", "host of the fly" or literally "Lord of Flies"), a name sometimes used as a synonym for Satan.

The book has its own Wikipedia page, from which the above is an extract.

About the Author

William Golding was born in 1911 in Newquay, Cornwall, UK, and died in 1993 at his home in Cornwall, near Truro.

Those bold facts, accompanied by the dates of his most significant events (book publishings, marriage, etc) are all you need to know, apparently. At least, if his website is to be believed.  He also, you'll be astonished to discover, has a Wikipedia page.


Previous Months' Book Choices

October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006