Tuesday, July 28, 2009


The novel can be read simply as a story which you can skip if you want. It can be read as a story you will get more out of if you don't skip. It can be regarded as a kind of symphony, or in another way as a kind of opera--or even a horse opera. It is hot music, a poem, a song, a comedy, a farce, and so forth. It is superficial, profound, entertaining, and boring, according to taste. It is a prophecy, a political warning, a cryptogram, a preposterous movie.
- Malcolm Lowry to his publisher Jonathan Cape, January 2, 1946

he wrote one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, under the volacano, & struggled every day of his life w/demons & alcohol & never did anything after the one novel until he died by "misadventure" at the age of 47yo. there's not really much to say about the life except that it's the standard tale of tragic genius & premature death.

on the other hand, the novel is everything he advertised & more. he worked on it for over 14 years & its a multi-layered narrative w/every classical & modernist story-telling trick seamlessly employed in the services of a simple story of epic tragedy. unlike some of the great 20th century novels, it's still a great read that doesn't distract you w/its cleverness or overwhelm you w/arcane references.

a love triangle fueled by mezcal set in a small mexican town can only end one way. i don't want to downplay the complexity of the novel though. like lowry said, it's a novel that can be read as a story but he imbued it w/an encyclopedic substructure of vast referentiality. at new college, i did a big project on the book & added an alphabetized, annotated index of references & subcontext that ended up being longer than the paper itself.


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