Sunday, November 13, 2005

THE QUOTABLE JOHN FOWLES

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A fascinating excerpt from John Fowles journal in today's Guardian reveals a lot about the writer. At the height of his fame, he was mired in personal misery, literary envy, and pessimism. Documenting the years between the release of The Magus, through the writing and publication of The French Lieutenant's Woman, the journals expose a man who was neither happy in solitude nor in company, and who found the very success he craved a bitter reward. The writer who has so much empathy for his characters reserves little for his wife, himself or for anyone else who populates his world. And yet his rapturous descriptions of nature, and his stinging and often prophetic predictions about the future remain stunning.

One can only hope that in the intervening years between this diary from the sixties and his death last week, he achieved a greater peace.

A few Quotes:

On his wife's jealousy when he gets a large advance: "Love is a pact of inadequacies."

On an afternoon in his beloved fields: "It is a poem, a book of hours, a symposium of all the springs that ever were or ever will be."

On reviews: "In a way it seems healthier in a sick culture to be rejected than approved."

On beginning The French Lieutenant's Woman: "It was really just one visual idea: a woman standing at the end of the cobb and staring mysteriously into the sea."

On a literary cocktail party: "It was...a nest or swarm of beings, self-adulatory, warming to one another, and yet fanged in every external reality."

13 comments:

rdl said...

I always meant to read the Magus again, tho I loved it, I never really got it really.

Sharon Hurlbut said...

These are fascinating quotes, Patry. His take on reviews is cynical but, I fear, true. And I'm heartened by the fact that he began "The French Lieutenant's Woman" with nothing more than an image, since that is often the only thing I start with when writing.

Patry Francis said...

rdl: I don't think I ever read the Magus either. FLW and Daniel Martin, yes, but never got to the Magus--which may be his finiest book.

sharon: the strange thing for me is that now these many years after reading it, the image of the woman on the cobb is the only thing that remains in my minding. There's a haunting quality about it.

Diana said...

I love the journals of writers. Sylvia Plath's of course, and May Sarton's. I've been wanting to read Virginia Woolf's. And now I have a new one to add to the list.

Patry Francis said...

I loved Plath's journals, too--all that aspiration and striving. And May Sarton managed to paint an introspective life with her animals and nature with vivid colors.

Natalie said...

I was reading The Magus when I went to Lyme Regis (where Fowles lived) last year and was totally absorbed, literally couldn't put it down. But he himself thought it was an immature work. "The Collector" was another one of his that I was captivated by.

rdl said...

I read it, I always meant to read it again. I liked it but I always thought I was missing something, didnt' understand it ( it was preety cryptic as I remember). It's funny tho that of FLW, the image is all i remmber also.

Joel said...

I can very much believe this, Patry. My hardest times are always when I seem to be doing the best for myself. There are incidents I could recite, but they'd embarass me -- so I'll just put them in a journal and you can read about them after my death in say, uh, forty or more years?

I'm fond of The French Lieutenant's Woman. I read the original version of The Magus and have not sought the revision. The Ebony Tower was a little distressing to me, being young and virile at the time. :D

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