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Cover image for The Paper Men.
The Paper Men.
Publication Information:
New York Farrar, Straus, Giroux 1984.
Physical Description:
191 pages
Successful middle-aged English novelist Wilfred Barclay becomes locked in a mutually lethal relationship with an American professor of English literature who aims to become the authorized biographer and posthumous editor--the Barclay authority.
Geographic Term:


Call Number
Golding, W.

On Order



English novelist Wilfred Barclay, who has known fame, success, and fortune, is in crisis. He faces a drinking problem slipping over the borderline into alcoholism, a dead marriage, and the incurable itch of middle age lust. But the final, unbearable irritation is American Professor of English Literature Rick L. Tucker, who is implacable in his determinition to become The Barclay Man: authorized biographer, editor of the posthumous papers and the recognized authority.

Author Notes

William Golding was born in Cornwall, England on September 19, 1911. Although educated to be a scientist at the request of his father, he developed an interest in literature. At Oxford University, he studied natural science for two years and then transferred to a program for English literature and philosophy. He eventually became a schoolmaster at Bishop Wordsworth's School in Salisbury. During World War II, he joined the Royal Navy and was involved in the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck. After the war, he returned to Bishop Wordsworth's School and taught there until 1962.

His first novel, Lord of the Flies, was published in 1954 and was made into a film in 1963. His other novels include The Inheritors, Free Fall, The Spire, The Pyramid, The Paper Men, Close Quarters, and Fire down Below. He won the Booker Prize for Rites of Passage in 1980 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983. He also wrote plays, essays, and short stories. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1988. He died on June 19, 1993.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Kirkus Review

It's likely that this short, fierce, uneven novel was completed before Gelding received 1983's Nobel Prize for Literature. Nonetheless, it comes as if in scowling, self-deprecating response to the Prize--lampooning the literary/academic ""paper men"" while presenting a portrait of the Celebrated Writer as a selfish, alcoholic, pathetic clown. The sardonic narrator, aging through year-hopping chapters from 50 to 60+, is white-bearded English novelist Wilfred Barclay. And, in a dazzlingly compact opening scene, Wilf is immediately a victim of ""what I sometimes thought to be my personal nemesis, the spirit of farce"": huge American grad-student Rick L. Tucker, visiting Will's country home, goes burrowing into the garbage for literary paper--but produces an old love letter that promptly destroys Wilf's somewhat shaky marriage to tart-tongued Liz. In the decade that follows, then, Wilf will travel restlessly, alone, around Europe. He stays in hotels, drinks, writes occasionally in bursts, dreams, dwells on guilty memories. In constant, reappearing pursuit, moreover, is Rick L. Tucker--who begs to be named Wilf's Official Biographer, who contrives to save Wilf's life on an Alp, who even uses his comely, air-headed bride Mary Leu as sexual bait in the paper-game. (The would-be carnal bribe fizzles: 'Pimp, client and whore, all we three needed the assistance of a professional."") And eventually Wilf will take ugly revenge on the pursuing academic hulk, with teasing and humiliation. But, in the novel's almost-disorienting second half, the focus is more and more on Wilf's escalating breakdown--which is only incidentally related to the paper-duel with Tucker. He slides into paranoid fantasies. He has a quasi-epiphany in an Italian church. He later has another, more holistic sort of awakening--after which he gives up drink, hoping for a reconciliation with Liz. . .whose bitter, isolated cancer-death hardly dents Wilf's new-found happiness. Golding tries to weave two very different stands here: absurdist satire (reminiscent of prime Thomas Berger); and a spiritual, primal, death-haunted character study. The resulting combination is uneasy in tone, uncertainly paced, and slippery in apparent intent. But there's a strange, disconcerting energy throughout, comic brilliance and riveting despair in flashes--with extra, undeniable grab from the autobiographical echoes. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.