By Carolyn Kellogg
11:45 AM EDT, October 31, 2013
What's the scariest book you read in school? For me, it wasn't "Dracula" by Bram Stoker or Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" -- it was "Lord of the Flies."
William Golding's "Lord of the Flies" told a dystopic story of schoolboys marooned on a remote, lush island. Left to themselves, they create their own society -- and soon wind up turning on one another, descending into savagery. It's a terrifying take on human nature: that we are cruel, fearful, hungry for power and will destroy ourselves.
First published in 1954 in Britain, "Lord of the Flies" became a lasting international success. On the strength of its artistry and allegory, Golding was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1983.
The novel remains so popular that in September, it was the top-selling book on AbeBooks.com, which is an online storefront for used book dealers nationwide. A first edition of "Lord of the Flies" in its original dust jacket, signed by Golding and accompanied by a letter from him, sold for $19,877.
This copy of "Lord of the Flies" was previously owned by a girls' school teacher, Angharad Ryder, who collected signed first editions of many of her favorite 20th century novelists. Because she conducted much of her collecting by mail, she also had correspondence from several authors, including Golding.
In Golding's case, he enclosed a handwritten postcard that promised he would sign a copy of the Nobel speech he gave if she sent it. And he added, "Yes Lord of the Flies is the alleged translation of Beelzebub."
Reading "Lord of the Flies" -- a.k.a. Beelzebub -- in school was particularly disturbing for me and, I imagine, anyone else who was bookish, nerdy, and prone to annoyingly have the answers to every question. Because the character like that in the book is Piggy, a bespectacled outcast who quickly becomes a target. The book provides a frightening lesson for the bookish smartypants: Trouble is coming for you.
But I guess we like to be scared. Otherwise, "Lord of the Flies" wouldn't be a top seller, still.
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