Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween! The First Novel That Scared Me.

Welcome to All Hallows Eve, more commonly known as Halloween. A time to be scared and laugh about it, and if you’re under 12 years old, get some sweet treats for your trouble. I haven’t been trick or treating as a recipient since the 1960’s. But I have been plenty scared since then.

This blog will be a tale of the first novel I ever read that cost me sleep. Oh, make no mistake, I had seen many movies that had done so including The Exorcist in its original release, but had never read a novel that had ( I had NOT read the Exorcist at that point).

Until William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.

Just a warning here. I’m going to be giving away major plot points on this book. I have to do that to show how it affected me. Stop here if you want a virgin reading of Lord of the Flies.

Otherwise, I’m honored to have you join me.

In my July 11th posting, I mentioned an English professor I once had who assigned this brilliant twentieth century novel in a course on English Literature through the Restoration and Eighteenth Century. Her reason for assigning it? “I just read Lord of the Flies for the first time last summer and loved it! It is my privilege, then, to foist it onto you.”

Foist it she did, and frightened I was. Oh, my goodness. I had trouble reading about those wonderful boys degenerating into savages. Jack’s disgusting ego and cruelty. Ralph’s internal conflicts. Simon’s etherial goodness. Piggy’s whiney intelligence.

So what kept me up at night? Two things. One was the sow’s head and Simon’s vision of the damn thing talking to him ... the Lord of the Flies. The second thing, for some ungodly reason, struck me as cruel beyond belief ... when Jack’s hunters stole Piggy’s glasses.

I can tell you why.

I first read this novel thirty-four years ago, and I have had a few nightmares since. No more than most, I suspect, but a number of them featured the cruelty of taking my glasses off my face and stomping on them. It demonstrated how much that scene affected me. I’ve never forgotten the fat kid (Piggy) having his ability to see stolen from him. Anyone could see the cruelty in someone poking out his eyes. Doesn’t take a genius to see that. But stealing the poor boy glasses? Seems innocuous. Like a prank. Maybe even a good-natured prank depending on how it’s told.

Could anyone other than a glasses-wearer understand the real cruelty behind it?

Golding did, and showed it brilliantly.

Just like he showed so many things about the human condition and human frailty and how civilization is as sweet and as fragile as cotton candy.

Even in the age of Lasik, I still have those horrible nightmares of even my best friends stealing my glasses and stomping on them so that I can’t see.

My heavens. When I read what they did to poor Piggy, I wept.

If necessary, I could function without my glasses. I could recognize people within twenty feet or so.

Piggy could only see light and shadow without his. He was fat (like me). He needed glasses (like me). Call me crazy ... many have ... but damn it was cruel to steal the fat kid’s vision. I don’t care how whiney he was.

The smashing of the glasses has haunted my dreams a long time. The sows head speaking to Simon in that vision kept me awake. Simon was the one character who maintained his decency ... until he was brutally murdered, showing just how easily good can be overcome by evil.

So, that was the tale of the first novel that scared me to the core. Dracula didn’t do it. Frankenstein didn’t do it. Lord of the Flies did.

Happy Halloween, folks!

Check out my new blog featuring my writing. This first one is a short piece about my first heartbreak ... in second grade.

I gained a couple of pounds last week, coming in at 272. Damn, it’s looking like surgery next August.

Please, Lord, no!

I’ve also been outlining Catch a Falling Star, and have revised a couple of chapters. That’s so cool. I’ll keep working on that.

I’ll let you know next week, how I did.

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