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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 B 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.


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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 B 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.

30 review for The Paper Men

  1. 4 out of 5

    James Barker

    This is the eighth book by William Golding I've read and probably my least favourite, so it's unfortunate that this is the first work by him that I have reviewed. None the less, this is not a bad book. In it, celebrated writer Wilfred Barclay (suspiciously similar to Golding himself, with all his complicated hang-ups), an alcoholic author past his best, is chased around the world by young, up-and-coming Professor of Literature, Rick Tucker. Tucker has spotted a gap in the academic market and wan This is the eighth book by William Golding I've read and probably my least favourite, so it's unfortunate that this is the first work by him that I have reviewed. None the less, this is not a bad book. In it, celebrated writer Wilfred Barclay (suspiciously similar to Golding himself, with all his complicated hang-ups), an alcoholic author past his best, is chased around the world by young, up-and-coming Professor of Literature, Rick Tucker. Tucker has spotted a gap in the academic market and wants to be the world authority on Barclay. He longs, therefore, to gain permission to trawl through his old papers and diaries. But Barclay has secrets he does not want revealed and a catalogue of shame that runs into reams. Both men become obsessed with each other. Barclay sees his young nemesis everywhere he goes and when, finally, they meet again, it turns out Tucker has seen phantoms of the writer around the world. Caught in the throes of this unbreakable paranoia, power is wrestled with and fought over and authority is given and lost. Written in first person narrative from the writer Barclay’s POV it is not without humour and is readable but the voice reminds me of the narrator of Golding’s ‘To the Ends of the Earth’ trilogy but without the powerful story of ‘Rites of Passage’ (the first book in the series) or ‘Fire Down Below’ (the third). I’d recommend these books, ‘Pincher Martin’ and (of course) ‘Lord of the Flies’ over this middling, late-career work.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Julie 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 qu 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.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Wendle

    I adored Wilf. I’m not sure i was supposed to, but there we have it. He isn’t perfect, by any means, but he is unapologetically himself, and hurts almost no one but himself. Almost, except those closest to him (though whether he is close to them is debatable), and of course Rick L. Tucker. Wilf travels the world on no whim but his own, drinking, sleeping and writing. He makes no demands on people, letting the wind take him wherever it decides to blow. Rick L. Tucker, on the other hand, goes exac I adored Wilf. I’m not sure i was supposed to, but there we have it. He isn’t perfect, by any means, but he is unapologetically himself, and hurts almost no one but himself. Almost, except those closest to him (though whether he is close to them is debatable), and of course Rick L. Tucker. Wilf travels the world on no whim but his own, drinking, sleeping and writing. He makes no demands on people, letting the wind take him wherever it decides to blow. Rick L. Tucker, on the other hand, goes exactly where Wilf does. His obsessive, stalker, relentless behaviour really, really bothered me. He just wouldn’t give up chasing Wilf around, trying to convince him to let him be his official biographer. How many times can Wilf say, “No,” and disappear to another country before Rick gets the message? Never enough, apparently. Sorry, but harassment is not an endearing quality, and for all Wilf’s faults, i’ll take him over Tucker any day. That covers the plot, really. The rest of the interest of the book is more Wilf’s mind and thoughts, so i supposed having a soft spot for Wilf makes me more inclined to enjoy his words and the book itself. He is very much a writer, often comparing the world to how things would be done in one of his novels, and offering insight into the mind of a writer. He tos and fros between thought processes, opinions on himself, and choices and reasons. He’s an intellectual and literary man, and he’s also one of the most unreliable narrators i have ever read. His words were a joy, his drinking problem worrisome but occasionally controlled, his paranoia palpable but relatively harmless. He was, ultimately, fascinating. A longer review can be read at my book blog, Marvel at Words

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jillian

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

  5. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    The Goodreads star-rating system is just so problematic. On the one hand, this is William Golding - so when it's good, the writing is on another plane to that found in 'middle grade dark urban fantasy' and all the other stuff churned out by the barrow load. On such a basis, it merits more than three stars. On the other hand, it's the author at his least inspired and believable. Thus to reflect its weakness vis a vis The Inheritors, say, or The Spire, three stars it has to be. Golding didn't thin The Goodreads star-rating system is just so problematic. On the one hand, this is William Golding - so when it's good, the writing is on another plane to that found in 'middle grade dark urban fantasy' and all the other stuff churned out by the barrow load. On such a basis, it merits more than three stars. On the other hand, it's the author at his least inspired and believable. Thus to reflect its weakness vis a vis The Inheritors, say, or The Spire, three stars it has to be. Golding didn't think his novel was very good. Even the publishers didn't care much about this book, apparently. I had read in John Carey's superb biography of the novelist that the anti-hero, Rick, had been called Jake in the first draft and that somehow three references to Jake rather than Rick had survived into the first edition. It's worse than that; those errors survived into the mass market Book Club Associates edition that I read. A minor gripe in itself, it encapsulates a rather slipshod approach on behalf of both author and publisher that permeates this novel. For example, at one point, four characters are conversing and it's really hard to work out which of them is speaking. The American professor-biographer's dialogue is pastiche at best, an embarrassment at worst. And the endless descriptions of the narrator's drunkenness are just plain tedious. Clearly inspired by the author's own mixed feelings about his notoriety, the basic premise behind the novel is a fairly weak one. An unwilling novelist is pursued by a persistent biographer. This is taken to absurd extremes. Both characters are so unlikeable it's impossible to care what happens to them. There's a great deal of misanthropy and foul behaviour on display. For all that, some of the interior monologues are brilliantly conveyed and, as always, there is some unique imagery. Auto-fiction clearly wasn't Golding's metier. The Paper Men competes with The Pyramid for the title of the great writer's worst novel. If it hadn't been written around the same time as the sublime Rites of Passage, one would have concluded that the author was past his sell-by date. Recommended for Golding completists only.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rasti

    I loved it, William Golding is a great writer, here is what I think happening behind the text. The Paper men is a love-and-hate relationship between a Critic and an Author. Rick L. Tucker who desperately wants to get academic recognition seeks Wilfred Barclay who is an acclaimed author. Wilfred despises the role of academics in the modern world and his hatred is implied in his relationship with Tucker. Critics , who are Paparazzis, constantly discomfort the authors for what they are ,in the wors I loved it, William Golding is a great writer, here is what I think happening behind the text. The Paper men is a love-and-hate relationship between a Critic and an Author. Rick L. Tucker who desperately wants to get academic recognition seeks Wilfred Barclay who is an acclaimed author. Wilfred despises the role of academics in the modern world and his hatred is implied in his relationship with Tucker. Critics , who are Paparazzis, constantly discomfort the authors for what they are ,in the worst case, they forage their dustbins or offer their wives. However, what motivates the critics to scavenge to survive is capitalism as all the institutions are operating with money, for example Tucker does everything to become a full-professor or subsidized by Mr. Halliday. In order to fulfill his job, Tucker wants to write Wilfred's Biography. Despite his consent to give Tucker that authority to write his biography he changes his mind and hates him more. The philosophical idea behind the novel is about finding the real voice of who gives the meaning to the text.Foucault in an Essay, What's an author, states that the connection between author and his writing is a new connection, in early ages many works had no author instead a bard would recite them, however we gave a legal role to authors or a legal connection otherwise one can't find meaning of a text from the author. What Foucault, and other postmodernists say, influenced the way we look at writers and divided the power between the author and the reader. Author and the critics both are Paper men and both have equal power. Tucker controls the authors life and has an eye on his life, for example he brings a paper from Wilfred's past to the surface and ruins Wilfred's life. Wilfred has the power of denouncing the critic and making a fool out of him in his novel and not giving him the power to authorize his biography. There are many other ideas like his sexuality, his hangover, etc... but the predominant Idea is the Post-structuralist death of the author by the hand of critics.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    I'm not usually much taken with novels about novelists, but I can thoroughly recommend this one (1984). Not that there are any appealing characters in the book, but this is William Golding, isn't it? OK, maybe the old lady doing embroidery outside the deserted church, but she's just a walk-on. It's the novel before the famous trilogy, but nothing to do with it. Much of it is amusing and then suddenly.... The tone and approach reminded me most of Darkness Visible (1979). I say no more, except man I'm not usually much taken with novels about novelists, but I can thoroughly recommend this one (1984). Not that there are any appealing characters in the book, but this is William Golding, isn't it? OK, maybe the old lady doing embroidery outside the deserted church, but she's just a walk-on. It's the novel before the famous trilogy, but nothing to do with it. Much of it is amusing and then suddenly.... The tone and approach reminded me most of Darkness Visible (1979). I say no more, except many thanks to the Scottish-Texan literature freak who brought it up on the ABE Community Forum.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Not considered one of his best works by many, Golding has crafted a beautifully written, labyrinthine story. And that ending!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Elsje (moony) Mitchell

    I was kinda confused a few times while reading this book. I’ve read better books but it was ok. The last line of this book is what changed it from 2 stars to 3 😂

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    "In hell there are no eyelids."

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Writing review of books I hate is so much fun, I might have to do more of it (see my review of The Alchemist). I only made it through half of this book, and that was giving it more of a chance than it deserved. This guy is really a Nobel Laureate in literature? Really? This is one of his later works, and I know he wrote Lord of the Flies, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was in decline at this point--although he did write a Booker Prize winning trilogy after this, apparent Writing review of books I hate is so much fun, I might have to do more of it (see my review of The Alchemist). I only made it through half of this book, and that was giving it more of a chance than it deserved. This guy is really a Nobel Laureate in literature? Really? This is one of his later works, and I know he wrote Lord of the Flies, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was in decline at this point--although he did write a Booker Prize winning trilogy after this, apparently. Still, some sort of decline is the only explanation for why Golding thinks an aging writer obsessed with a younger woman (who happens to be his biographer's wife) is the least bit interesting, instead of just pathetic and creepy. And not pathetic and creepy in an entertaining way.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    I didn't even finish this garbage. There are already too many books about old white men complaining about how their lives are empty. I'm sure the end resolves in him either having an epiphany or continuing to be a dick. Either way, I can't bring myself to give a shit about this sorry old piteous sod of a character.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jerry Pogan

    An author with a drinking problem and a failed marriage is stalked by a writer who wants to become his biographer. In spite of Goldings magnificent writing I really didn't enjoy the book. It just seemed a little boring to me.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Freder

    Sharp, hard and deeply mean-spirited.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Col

    The best thing I can say about Golding is that all of his books are very different from each other, either in form or subject. Paper Men did not disappoint, even if I was a little leery of the washed-up alcoholic author concept (paging Stephen King). The black comedy of this is unlike any of his early novels, and even though Free Fall, The Pyramid and The Paper Men all have male protagonists from Britain born in the early 20th century, none of them are really similar as people. They occasionally The best thing I can say about Golding is that all of his books are very different from each other, either in form or subject. Paper Men did not disappoint, even if I was a little leery of the washed-up alcoholic author concept (paging Stephen King). The black comedy of this is unlike any of his early novels, and even though Free Fall, The Pyramid and The Paper Men all have male protagonists from Britain born in the early 20th century, none of them are really similar as people. They occasionally share the same anxieties, they are all more intellectual than physical, but their basic personalities are not of the same type. As to the book itself, it is funny, disturbing and buffeting. Washed up author Wilfred Barclay and young(er) Rick Tucker prosecute a feud across Europe and decades in which Tucker tries to get official permission from Wilfred to write his official biography, and Wilfred attempts to evade, sinking into alternating paranoid delirium and lucidity. Wilfred and Rick are the only real characters, with everyone else being bit parts revolving around the interactions of the two, and they're a match made in hell. We get a deep view into Wilfred's many flaws and idiosyncrasies, but Rick comes out no better at the end of the day. They are both entirely pathological, with nothing anchoring them to anything or anybody sane, and though they hate each other (at least from Wilfred's end, Tucker is a more ambiguous case), they are the only real things in each others lives. Rick's pursuit of Wilfred is single-minded and Rick gives the only colour to Wilfred's aimless traveling and drinking. As the blurb says, the outcome is inevitable. While I found the book funny, I honestly can't remember if it ever made me laugh, and I never felt the depth of emotion present in Golding's other novels. Wilfred is so disconnected from humanity, and him and Tucker make such a grotesque pair that it's tough to feel anything other than vague distaste for them. Not my favourite of Golding's, but I'm glad that he can keep surprising me. I'm starting to get a little sad that I'm closing in on his last few novels. I have only Darkness Visible and his boat trilogy left.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Norton Stone

    One for the literary in-crowd. There is really no way in to this if you are not outrageously talented, privileged, or rich. I mean that as understanding the mis en scene. It is about an ageing author who has more money than he can possibly spend, attending to his literary and personal legacy. He is an alcoholic, at times delusional, who may or may not be in a difficult dream all the time. Is the would be biographer Rick Tucker a figment of his imagination? At times he is, at other times he still One for the literary in-crowd. There is really no way in to this if you are not outrageously talented, privileged, or rich. I mean that as understanding the mis en scene. It is about an ageing author who has more money than he can possibly spend, attending to his literary and personal legacy. He is an alcoholic, at times delusional, who may or may not be in a difficult dream all the time. Is the would be biographer Rick Tucker a figment of his imagination? At times he is, at other times he still maybe. In the end the suggestion is playfully dealt with with the author's execution. As a plot it was not resolved but that might well be the point, the author was playing with the form. Certainly a bit of a wank if you ask me, but too well written to dismiss as self indulgent, which makes it a bit of difficult one to measure.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Adrian

    Bought this on a whim at a discount book store as a reward for getting a new contract over a year ago. On that day I listened to a podcast about William Goldman (Princess Bride) shortly after his death and thought I was getting one of his books. I was sorely mistaken. This felt like Golding's other book I've read, you know the one The Simpsons parodied, but without a compelling plot. Here was some farcical game of cat and mouse between an alcoholic writer and a needy academic who wants to write h Bought this on a whim at a discount book store as a reward for getting a new contract over a year ago. On that day I listened to a podcast about William Goldman (Princess Bride) shortly after his death and thought I was getting one of his books. I was sorely mistaken. This felt like Golding's other book I've read, you know the one The Simpsons parodied, but without a compelling plot. Here was some farcical game of cat and mouse between an alcoholic writer and a needy academic who wants to write his biography. Golding's writing is frustrating in a similar manner to Don Delillo's in that I know it's quality but it doesn't grab me. Had a few laughs so it wasn't irredeemable.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mitchell McInnis

    I truly enjoyed this short novel by Golding. The textures of its narrative feel like a roman a clef, but it is spun fiction. Numerous critics described this book as 'uneven,' and I understand that criticism. What made The Paper Men especially intriguing was that I'd read Julian Barnes' Sense of an Ending as well as Kermode's namesake book of literary theory. When taken in the larger context of author as narrator versus author as agent of individual life, all three books rise, and wildly fascinat I truly enjoyed this short novel by Golding. The textures of its narrative feel like a roman a clef, but it is spun fiction. Numerous critics described this book as 'uneven,' and I understand that criticism. What made The Paper Men especially intriguing was that I'd read Julian Barnes' Sense of an Ending as well as Kermode's namesake book of literary theory. When taken in the larger context of author as narrator versus author as agent of individual life, all three books rise, and wildly fascinating and fruitful discussions ensue.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Mayo

    Golding, most famous for "Lord of the Flies," writes a semi-autobiographical account of a middle aged, bad tempered, alcoholic, named Wilfred Barclay. He spends his time trying to avoid a young professor who wants to write his biography. I think that it is mean spirited, but I also believe that it is satire, so some of the harshness is hyperbole. Not particularly insightful, but it is a quick read, fewer than 200 pages. I don't love it, but I like it enough to read more from Golding.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Christian Schwoerke

    I like most all of Golding's oeuvre, but this book left me cold. It's not as funny as it seems to want to be, nor as clever. The principals are unlikeable, and their intellects and ratiocinations are not interesting. The moral element is unconvincing. A fascinating book to read, a wreck of a novel from a master. How did that happen?

  21. 5 out of 5

    D. E.

    Two men cross paths in their area of expertise. One is older and on his way into the age of dottage. The second is a brilliant writer who has climbed the ladder to success. The men have reached a entertainment in their dealings with each other so one cannot be above the other when working on the autobiography.....DEHS

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jayanne

    Not particularly compelling. The characters felt flat and one-dimensional and therefore hard to relate or attach to, and the whole novel feels rather dull in plot and dialogue. The ending may have redeemed it a little: I found the book started off worse than it eventually progressed, but nonetheless there is little to take away from this read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Dube

    Sorry... disappointed again. I didn't like Rite of Passage either. Can't say it was a bad book... I just hated all the characters... maybe it takes a great writer to create a good book where you still hate everyone. Anyway... I'll stick to Lord of the Flies... probably won't try another of his books again.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Guy

    Darkly satirical confessional narrative of a famed Brittish author and the desperate young American man who has made it his life's ambition to be the author's biographer. Amusing concept, but the novel (even though it's short) was a little tedious. I was glad to finally come to the end of the story.

  25. 4 out of 5

    A.L.

    An odd little story. For some reason I didn't find it very engaging, although I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's because the main characters aren't particularly likeable. It's worth reading for the ending, though.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sam Romilly

    I just did not see the point of this book. It seems just an egoistical account of a selfish anti-social famous writer. I guess it is a clever self-refential and self-depreciating analysis of the author. But it made for a very boring read and in the end I did not even manage to finish it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Geoffrey Gates

    #WilliamGolding's #ThePaperMen' it isn’t a pleasant book, but then again, whoever said that the role of fiction was to provide solace? Read my take on the book here: https://gatesyread.blogspot.com/2019/... #WilliamGolding's #ThePaperMen' it isn’t a pleasant book, but then again, whoever said that the role of fiction was to provide solace? Read my take on the book here: https://gatesyread.blogspot.com/2019/...

  28. 4 out of 5

    Juanjo Thomas

    Such a satisfying read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Corinne Wasilewski

    I found this to be a really entertaining read and an excellent portrayal of a destructive relationship. Wilf was a hilarious protagonist with his many contradictions, foibles and idiosyncracies. He is certainly the most likeable neurotic character I remember in some time: condescending and self depreciating at the same time; depressed one minute, upbeat the next; sarcastic and self absorbed. In short, the kind of person who is fun to read about, but who you'd never want to live with. I particula I found this to be a really entertaining read and an excellent portrayal of a destructive relationship. Wilf was a hilarious protagonist with his many contradictions, foibles and idiosyncracies. He is certainly the most likeable neurotic character I remember in some time: condescending and self depreciating at the same time; depressed one minute, upbeat the next; sarcastic and self absorbed. In short, the kind of person who is fun to read about, but who you'd never want to live with. I particularly enjoyed his takes on other people and the colourful way he describes them. Ha et cetera. Wilf was a character and a half. Rick was his perfect foil, amplifying his every flaw. Each was the other's demise. The ending is perfect.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Elaine Cougler

    The Paper Men by William Golding. A rather short novella of limited interest in that its main character, an aging writer, through first person narration bares his soul right down to every last disgusting detail; yet, the book is interesting in its nemesis theme and its clever and competent writing style. The question which remains is which of the "paper men" is the most disgusting: the writer, Wilf Barclay, or the would-be biographer, Rick Tucker. The reader is left to decide.

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