The Paper Men

ISBN: 0374526397
ISBN 13: 9780374526399
By: William Golding

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20th Century Classics Contemporary Currently Reading Default England Fiction Nobel Prize To Read William Golding

About this book

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.

Reader's Thoughts

Lisbeth Solberg

Very talky. Interesting enough, but not very emotionally engaging, and ultimately disappointing.


Sharp, hard and deeply mean-spirited.


Though slow at points (at at under 200 pages, it was never slow for long), this novel had some delicious black humor. It was rather War of the Roses, and I could envision it played out like a movie.


Bleak, depressing, riotously funny, and full of savage truths about the writer's life. A stark and metaphorical look at alcoholism, fame, obsession, lust, and aging. A short novel, this one by Golding is most memorable for it's crusty voice spouting dark wisdom and an incredible final sentence.


I have never read Lord of the Flies, or anything else by him...This book made me uncomfortable. He is certainly not easy on himself, I'm assuming the narrator is a very close version of him. He is not afraid to depict this man as unloving and unlovable. The ending is like no ending I've read before. Could be really cheesy in the hands of a lesser writer. Ultimately I am thinking he tossed this off to let off steam about something that was really happening in his own life. By that I mean, being pestered by academics...There is a part where he has a dream but it almost seems more like a NDE and it gives him a lot of peace, that was interesting.


I was surprised by how much I disliked this book, though Golding is one of my favorites. Granted, I've only read his earlier work till now...The characters were strong, and understandably so – as the narrator is the writer. Golding always develops people definitively through their prospective vices. I enjoyed the duality of the main c. and his (possibly autobiographical) social spite. As well, the plot was original and intriguing.There are, however, serious problems with continuity, character motivation, etc. Maybe I missed something. What was the source of the main c's cruelty? Mostly, the ending angered me.


Interesting insight into the life of a writer. Too bad a bunch of self loathing came along for the ride.

the mad hatter

this one too

Kari Ramadorai

Surprisingly good for a book that started so very depressingly. The characters are all a little abhorrent, and I still wonder if there was indeed a grad student chasing William Golding around trying to be his memoir author. But overall it started getting interesting about half way through. The book stopped the navel gazing and started psychological drama. What can I say, I'm a sucker for a well turned phrase with some intrigue behind it.


I could not even finish this book! I hope it did not turn out to be great at the end because I could not get through half of it.

Vincent A.

William Golding's brilliant character study is an easy, enjoyable journey from beginning to end. The story follows its flawed hero, with a persistent sycophant in pursuit, as he travels - and perhaps flees - across Europe, dropping the baggage of his life along the way. "The Paper Men" is charming, comical and just a little dangerous. Mr. Golding offers more than one surprise to titillate the reader and set the stage for "The Paper Men's" unexpected ending.

Julie Stroebel Barichello

This book is worth reading just to make it to the last line. Although at times the story dragged with Wilf's narration and introspection (and occasional vague descriptions that required rereading a paragraph), and although during the last two chapters I simply wanted the book to conclude already, the final line made me legitimately LOL — I could not suppress laughing at the simple brilliance of how William Golding concluded the destructive spiral between Wilf Barclay and Rick Tucker.This is a quick read, sliding in at less than 200 pages. The action is stop-and-go, but the characters make the novel worth the time invested simply because they are memorable, obsessive and destructive.

Amy Bennett

A surprisingly good read after a bleak start for me. Horrendous characters but portrayed unflinchingly. Exposure to the mess and grottiness of society and human interactions. Took me a while to get through but worth it in the end.


A sad book in the end although humourous and insightful along the way. Thank goodness it's short.


Beautifully crafted, with striking descriptions of alcoholism, paranoia, writing, and the farce that is life in general. I'm hunting down more Golding immediately.

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