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Saturday, July 19, 2008

As an added bonus...

I am a member of the website, GoodReads.com, a relatively popular and well-coded online book review site, where you can learn about your peers' taste in literature (mostly that they only read Harry Potter and self-help books) and adjust accordingly. The site is actually really nice, giving you a chance to give opinions on books that you've read, and take suggestions from people who like the same authors and genres as you do on what to read next. Of course, there are a few bad apples who seem to only exist to stomp on every good book ever written, especially the classics, deriding them with a whole laundry list of knee-jerk reactions to the texts and calling it insight. I like to read these reviews every once in a while, just to see who could possibly hate George Suanders and Bret Easton Ellis, but the most recent blowhard that caught my eye turned her hatred in the direction of William Golding, whose Lord of the Flies I literally just finished writing a review of moments ago.

I noticed this woman's review last night, when I changed my "Currently Reading" status on Lord of the Flies to "Read" and started debating what I'd want to say in my review. Inspired by her single-star rating, I couldn't help but click on her review, just to see what could possibly have been her problem with such a great piece of literature. The lack of characterization, no doubt, I assumed. Or the sparse imagery. I admitted in my own review that both aspects of the novel made it suffer at least slightly in the end, and I could see how that would have really damaged someone's reading. But what I found was something completely different. Something that made me so angry that I naturally had to respond. But of course, someone had already beat me to it--and had succeeded in being almost as ridiculous as the first dumb twat herself. My mind was blown and I made a stand, and now, for the sake of your enjoyment, I've decided to include, as an added bonus to my review of William Golding's Lord of the Flies, a complete and unabridged (including, regrettably, my own misspellings) transcript of the exchange. It is quite lengthy, but totally worth a read. I give it at least five stars for sheer entertainment, despite the characterizations being a bit thin.


Karen:
I HATED this book. This is one of the books that gets lumped into a group with other equally bad books that everyone is supposed to read and love because it has some overarching value. This book was trash.

The subject matter was dark and terrible and in my opinion NOT fit for children. If you could overlook how poorly written it is, then you gagged on the Christian symbolism that was pervasive in almost all literature of the time. I did not buy the idea that without God we'd all dissolve into savages that enjoyed killing as I was supposed to. Of course this book was assigned at the same time I was learning about the Crusades and witchhunts. Not exactly the best time to try to send the "God makes you good" message. In fact this book helped tip me over into the atheist/agnostic camp where I remained for many years. I am still decidedly anti-Christian.

I am homeschooling my children and if I have them read this horrible book it will be as a warning to them to steer clear of anyone that espouses Christian ideology as dangerous. Not because of the characters in the book but because of the brainwashing the author tried to pull off using them.

Horrible book. Horrible writing. Not a classic by any stretch of the imagination.

Teresa:
What a poor review you have given Mr. Golding's book! I detest to all that you have stated and I want you to know it.

First, this book is not badly written. It is written in a style that people do not always like because it makes us imagine the feeling and environment. The book is unique because of the style and it adds to the story. Feel free to hate the style of writing but do not call it poorly written.

Second, there is more symbolism in this book than the Christian viewpoint. The main theme is based on the idea of what would become of us of there were no civilization to hold us up. If we only had our peers, could we get by? Outside of this theme there are other direct symbols. Perhaps you should look into these if you are so "anti-Christian".

While I am on this topic, I believe you have misinterpreted the Christian symbolism. Understand that there is never an absence of God. We either chose Him or we don’t, but either way He is always with us. In the book, the boys forget to care for each other. Life goes well at first but things quickly deteriorate. When one forgets to care for others they quickly forget themselves. We see that, in the end, the boys become savages- they have lost themselves. This all represents failure to choose God. When we fail to chose God (and others) we lose ourselves.

This book is not implying that God isn’t present on deserted islands or that without God we would all kill each other. It is saying- Look, you have a choice, you may have God, peace, truth and happiness, or you may have yourself, which from the Christian viewpoint is nothing without God. We cannot win with out God.

I amazed by how venomously you stated your views of this book and I pity your lack of faith. If nothing else could you please call yourself something other than anti-Christian? It is always better to be for something than to be against another thing. May the peace of Christ be with you.

Karen:
Interesting you ascribe venom to my rationally written OPINION of a book that was IN MY OPINION *poorly written* and it is a heavy handed attempt at shoving Christianity down childrens' throats. But then, that's the Christian MO.

"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.
Mohandas Gandhi" And that pretty much is true for me too, your prosletzing in the form of a review just proves my point about Christians.

Teresa:
I have not protested towards you. I told you once, in fact, that I do like to be against things, but rather, for things. I have explained what I see in the book as a Catholic. I never tried to impress my faith upon you.

It may interest you to know that Golding’s books were never actually directed towards Christians, but rather to all groups of people.

Do not be so critical of Christians though. If you "liked" my Christ you would be not so be anti-Christian.

“...that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963), from Mere Christianity

You may believe Gandhi, but I believe C.S. Lewis.

You are right, however, in correcting me for insisting the book to be well written. I cannot dispute with you over matters of taste.

Me:
Nowhere in the book is the Christian God ever mentioned. It is about the natural fall of man, yes, but not about religion in the slightest. I don't know why I'm even bothering to defend it becuase you will lash back with ignorance even harder, but it needs to be said all the same. The two sides that Ralph and Jack represent are not the godly and the godless, but the rational and the savage. There are other things that can create rationale than God--in Ralph's case, it is wanting to escape the hell of the island and go home. Nothing more. No mention of God is made, not even when the Lord of the Flies talks to Simon. In that whole scene, when it could easily be swung into a Christian light, the Lord of the Flies admits that it isn't a beast or spirit at all, that it is the darkness inside all of them--the id, as Freud put it. In the closing moments of the book, Ralph breaks down and cries for the same reason: "Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart." He knows what has happened is no fault of god or demon--it is the beast inside every person that needs to be controlled by sense and rationale. Golding himself said, "the theme is an attempt to trace the defect of society back to the defect of human nature." You can't get much more blatant than that. If anything, this is far closer to a piece on psychoanalysis and philosophy than it is any sort of championing of the Christian belief system.

And really, I feel sorry that you could deprive any child of a classic of literature because you yourself might not agree with the author's social, political or religious leanings. I have a cousin who homeschools her daughter and has made this exact mistake, and thereby has not at all prepared her for the real world where people don't always agree. For the sake of your children, please try to have more of an open mind about other people's beliefs, or curse them to as close-minded an existence as your own.

Karen:
LOL...I always have to laugh when I find people on this site trolling looking for reviews they don't like and then making personal attacks against the reviewer.

YOU are welcome to love this book. Reread it every day if you so choose. I am free to dislike this book. That's the beauty of free-choice.

Enjoy your life.

Teresa:
I'm confused, are you upset with me or Karen here?

Me:
I am disappointed in both of you for projecting ridiculous readings onto a book that doesn't call for them. I'm not attacking anyone, Karen. You attacked Golding, the poor late man who can hardly defend himself here (though he does a pretty good job of it if you read any of his commentary on the book), so you are no better than whatever you think of me. I must say I applaud your rigorous compliance to form though--just as I expected, you rebutted none of what I said and just zinged me with an "LOL." Hot damn. And I wasn't trolling for bad reviews either, I only clicked on your review to see why someone would hate such an important piece of literature and what I found was appalling, so I felt the need to respond. That's what literature endures for, after all, the discussion and dissection of it.

But thank you for that dismissal, that subtle sign that you have no time for me in your busy life. Come on baby, I'm not that stupid. I know what that meant, even if you don't. You've got nothing to say to me--you're ushering me out, making me the smaller man if I continue challenging your opinion. After all, everyone can have their opinions, right? Opinions never harmed anyone. I mean, it was just Hitler's opinion that Jews were the scourge of the earth and that turned out alright, right?

Ouch.

Karen:
Well dear if you reread your post to me you said if I said anything to you I'd be spitting into the wind. If you want to have a discussion about the book that's fine but you went after my opinion, my thoughts, and my parenting. That's not going to win you any brownie points. And CERTAINLY doesn't make it seem as though you wanted a discussion...sounded more like you were spoiling for a fight and that is not something for which I have time in my life.

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