Sunday, August 19, 2007

Malcolm Lowry

Although it was a recent TLS Commentary article on one of George Bernard Shaw's drafts, The Household of Joseph, that sparked the idea of this challenge, Malcolm Lowry (1909-57) was one of the first authors that came to mind when I thought of a list. I'd never heard of him before I read a 1966 Paris Review issue in which Conrad Knickerbocker, a reputable critic deceased by the time of publication, did a piece in which he interviewed Lowry's friends and family in England to put together a disjointed image of his life. It was a boozy, intriguing and occasionally confusing read, not least because I had no idea who anyone in the piece was except Dylan Thomas. Diverting enough to keep my interest to the end but not at all intended to get newcomers interested in Lowry's fiction -- it was written for readers who already knew what was what.

Ellis Sharp at The Sharp Side was the blogger who got me actively interested in Lowry's fiction. It's clear that he's something of a favourite of his. Read his take on Lunar Caustic, a novella, and the novel popularly considered Lowry's best, Under the Volcano, which includes commentary on one of his lesser known works, as well as related books.

Other interesting links:

Through a glass darkly
- A Guardian article by John Hartley Williams in which focuses primarily on Under the Volcano as well as Lowry's other works, including his poetry, with a biographical approach.
More than most writers, the circumstances of Malcolm Lowry's death are peculiarly relevant to a consideration of his work, since excess of every kind was both his method and his subject.
Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano - A site on his works that I somehow missed the first time around. It includes chapter summaries and a historical overview of the major work, along with a selected bibliography of his fiction and of criticism on his works, and information on a documentary.

Excerpt from Dark as the Grave - Two paragraphs from the novel, Dark as the Grave Wherein My Friend is Laid. (via Wikipedia)

ArtandCulture artist
- Read a bit on the similarities between Under the Volcano and Don Quixote.

Malcolm Lowry and the Northern Tradition - An essay by Hallvard Dahlie. He argues how novelists like Lowry's in their fiction depict
the various ways in which Canada is being transformed from fact into imagination. These novelists have taken the "facts" about Canada - its geography, history, and culture - and created out of them a distinctive mythology which is unmistakably connected to the northern, the frontier, the paradisaical aspects of Canada, and have forged in a relatively short period of time both a tradition and a fictional mode which are significantly different from any earlier movements in our literature.
The Political Strand in Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano - An essay by Tom Middlebro'. In the second paragraph alone we have mentions of Thomas Mann, Faust, St. Augustine, Nietzsche, Schoenberg and Joseph Goebbels.

There are probably more Lowry articles on the Studies in Canadian Literature site but its search feature is broken. Curious as to why Lowry's on a Can Lit site? You silly, I thought everyone knew that Lowry spent the best years of his life in and set "much of his later fiction" in British Columbia.

Further thoughts on the Malcolm Lowry connection - Graham Collier, "Britain's most original jazz talent", writes an intriguing piece on how Lowry's fictions have influenced his compositions.

And if you need any ideas as to where to go next after reading his entire oeuvre here's a handy Literature-Map guide.


Blethering said...

You might be interested in this:

The Voyage That Never Ends
Fictions, Poems, Fragments, Letters
By Malcolm Lowry
Edited and with an introduction by Michael Hofmann

A New York Review Books Original

Notorious for a misspent life full of binges, blackouts, and unimaginable bad luck, Malcolm Lowry managed, against every odd, to complete and publish two novels, one of them, Under the Volcano, an indisputable masterpiece. At the time of his death in 1957, Lowry also left behind a great deal of uncollected and unpublished writing: stories, novellas, drafts of novels and revisions of drafts of novels (Lowry was a tireless revisiter and reviser—and interrupter—of his work), long, impassioned, haunting, beautiful letters overflowing with wordplay and lament, fraught short poems that display a sozzled off-the-cuff inspiration all Lowry's own. Over the years these writings have appeared in various volumes, all long out of print. Here, in The Voyage That Never Ends, the poet, translator, and critic Michael Hofmann has drawn on all this scattered and inaccessible material to assemble the first book that reflects the full range of Lowry's extraordinary and singular achievement....

[see publisher page at URL below]

Imani said...

Oh, thank you Blethering. It was when I was searching for publisher links that I read about that new NYRB release! I'm pretty excited about it.

Graham Collier said...

Thanks for the reference to one of my pieces on Malcolm Lowry's influence on my composing. Here is the URL for another Lowry link - a talk I gave on Lowry and Jazz at a Lowry Symposium in Canada. (The link you mention will be updated soon to include it to the new design of the site.) There are also soundbites on the site for some of my Lowry-inspired work, particularly The Day of The Dead CD.

Graham Collier