Ninety-Nine Novels: The Spire by William Golding
In 1984, Anthony Burgess published Ninety-Nine Novels, a selection of his favourite novels in English since 1939. The list is typically idiosyncratic, and shows the breadth of Burgess’s interest in fiction. This podcast explores the novels on Burgess’s list with the help of writers, critics and other special guests.
In this episode, we are joined by writer and academic Tim Kendall to talk about The Spire by William Golding. Published in 1964, The Spire tells the story of Jocelin, the dean of a medieval cathedral. He believes he has been tasked by God to build the tallest spire in England, but its construction is plagued by problems, just as Jocelin is plagued by visions both heavenly and otherwise.
William Golding was born in Cornwall in 1911. After becoming a schoolteacher in Salisbury in the 1930s, he was drafted into the Royal Navy for his wartime service, during which he participated in the Normandy Landings on D-Day. He began writing in the 1950s, and published his first novel Lord of the Flies in 1954. He won the Booker Prize in 1980 for Rites of Passage, beating Anthony Burgess’s Earthly Powers. He died in 1993 aged 81.
Tim Kendall is Professor of English at the University of Exeter. He is currently preparing the correspondence between William Golding and his editor Charles Monteith for publication by Faber & Faber. His next book, co-authored with Fiona Mathews, is Black Ops and Beaver-Bombing, an exploration of Britain’s wild mammals and is forthcoming from Oneworld in spring 2023.
Books mentioned in this episode
By William Golding:
- Lord of the Flies (1954)
- The Inheritors (1955)
- Pincher Martin (1956)
- Free Fall (1959)
- To the Ends of the Earth, consisting of: Rites of Passage (1980); Close Quarters (1987); Fire Down Below (1989)
- The Coral Island by R.M. Ballantyne (1857)
- The Master Builder by Henrik Ibsen (1892)
- ‘The Eye of Allah’ in Debits and Credits by Rudyard Kipling (1926)
- Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce (1958)
- A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962)
- Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban (1980)
- Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (1981)
- Northern Lights by Philip Pullman (1995)
- Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (2020)
In Series One of Ninety-Nine Novels, we learnt about authors including James Joyce, Thomas Pynchon, Iris Murdoch, V.S. Naipaul and Alan Sillitoe, among others. These episodes are available at your favourite place to get podcasts.
You can join the conversation and tell us which 100th book you would add to Burgess’s list by using the hashtag #99Novels on Twitter.
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The theme music for the Ninety-Nine Novels podcast is Anthony Burgess’s Concerto for Flute, Strings and Piano in D Minor, performed by No Dice Collective.