John Fowles died on 5 November 2005. After reading his obituaries in the papers I snagged a copy of The Magus when it surfaced at a charity used-book sale a few days ago. It's embarrassing to have to say anything negative about the recently deceased, but unfortunately Fowles is right in his self-criticism when in the Foreword he dismisses his first novel as a "... haphazard and naïvely instinctive work ...". And I was ready, by the time I reached Chapter 15, to agree with his title character who refuses to read any fiction and who monologues, "The novel is dead. As dead as alchemy. ... Why should I struggle through hundreds of pages of fabrication to reach half a dozen very little truths?"

In the case of The Magus, alas, I couldn't answer that question. I began to skim for naughty bits but couldn't discover enough of those to maintain my interest. In this book Fowles's narrative engine seems to doggedly chuff along a single set of tracks, hauling a heavy freight of allegory and archetype, literary allusion and juvenile angst. Not even an empty boxcar for this old hobo to hitch a ride in. Maybe I'll find the next train more accommodating ...

TopicLiterature - 2005-11-15

(correlates: HowGreatThouArt, IllusionOfControl, LoseTrack, ...)