PURSUED BY FURIES by Gordon Bowker


A Life of Malcolm Lowry
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 A well-honed and meticulously researched, drink-by-drink account of one of literature's greatest squandered talents. In British freelance journalist Bowker's inexorable account, Malcolm Lowry (190957) emerges as the archetypal poäte mauditmad, bad, and dangerous to know. He was a violent and habitual drunk, a liar, coward, procrastinator, and occasional genius whose richly innovative work has influenced everyone from Pynchon to Ginsburg. Ten tormented years in the making, Under the Volcano, his semi- autobiographical, alcohol-soaked masterpiece, set a standard of excellence that weighed oppressively on Lowry for the rest of his life. What followedsome poems, long short stories, and fragments of novelswas flashed with brilliance but invariably flawed. However, Bowker makes a strong case for the enduring literary value of Lowry's correspondence, some of which he believes ``rank[s] among the finest of the century.'' Much of the impetus behind Lowry's later writing was a great, unrealized Åber-plan, appropriately called The Voyage That Never Ends. Proustian in its ambitions, it would draw together all of Lowry's past and future work, including Volcano, into an epically vast meditation on sin and redemption. Bowker believes that this Brobdingnagian plan ultimately became an excuse for Lowry not to finish anything. Writers generally don't lead exciting lives; between reading, writing, and the usual unhappiness, there is not much time left over for event. Lowry, despite his share of misfortunes, was no exception. But Bowker masterfully works this potentially monotone material into a Lowryesque interior epic of moral struggle. His analysis of Lowry's work is also keen-eyed, illuminating innumerable autobiographical roots. If there are faults in this subtle portrait, they lie more with Lowry than with Bowker. Everything a literary biography should be. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-12748-0
Page count: 720pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1995


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