Friday, June 18, 2010


Pincher Martin, William Golding, Harcourt Brace and World, 1956, 208 pp

 Pincher Martin is the second book from 1956 about shipwreck on a deserted island. (Boon Island by Kenneth Roberts is the first.) Pincher Martin however, is alone on his rock in the mid-Atlantic and though he thinks of himself as a rational, educated and resourceful fellow, when faced with death he goes quite mad.

  "Pincher" is British slang meaning a nautical person, one who serves on ships, etc. This pincher's Christian name was Christopher and as we enter his mind, we learn that he has been a greedy, self-centered man who liked to force people, including women, to give him what he wanted. Golding is a master at telling a story completely through the eyes of a character. His description of Martin's struggle in the freezing Atlantic waters and his gradual awareness of the surroundings when he comes to on the rock, is so grueling and realistic as to be almost unbearable. He causes it to play in your mind like a movie that includes actual physical feelings, smells, tastes, every sense experienced.

  As in his two earlier novels, (Lord of the Flies and The Inheritors), Golding plumbs the human psyche for the hidden violent animal nature that is a part of everyone. Not a pretty picture, not a comfortable reading topic, but an unvarnished look at one aspect of humanity.

(Pincher Martin is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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