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Author Topic: John Fowles - dead
swirrlygrrl
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posted 07 November 2005 03:20 PM      Profile for swirrlygrrl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
CBC story on it.

quote:
Born in Essex in March 1926, Fowles worked as a teacher in France, Greece and the U.K. before turning to writing full-time in 1963 upon the success of his first novel, The Collector, which tells the story of a young butterfly collector who kidnaps and imprisons a young woman. His other works include The Magus, The Ebony Tower, Mantissa and A Maggot.

Fowles is best known, however, for The French Lieutenant's Woman...

Fowles was said to have based many of his female characters on his first wife, Elizabeth, who died of cancer in 1990.

The author...was considered a virtual recluse. In an interview with the Guardian newspaper in 2003, he acknowledged his "reputation as a cantankerous man of letters" and claimed to be "persecuted" by readers.


I still haven't gotten through the Collector - haven't tried the French Lieutenant's Woman - didn't like the Magus. I find it interesting that many of his female characters are supposedly based on his wife. Struck me as he didn't much like women from my reading of the Magus.


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Cueball
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posted 07 November 2005 03:31 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Really, I thought he didn't like himself. His central charachter in the Magus was truly a detestable coward and liar. Misanthropy comes to mind.
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skdadl
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posted 07 November 2005 04:05 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
And the central character in the Collector is horribly creepy, although the very fascination with treating the woman as a prize is also creepy.

I thought he was a wonderful writer, though. French Lieutenant's Woman has more than a whiff of Thomas Hardy about it, which might be part of the reason it made such a splash. But Hardy was something of a pessimist too.

Anyway, Fowles was magical for many of us in the sixties and seventies, and this brings fond memories. I had thought he was younger than that, maybe ten years younger. Still, if he remarried in 1998, ten years after having a stroke, he must have recovered fairly well in human terms from the stroke and the loss of his first wife.

Spending your last years as a cantankerous "recluse" in Dorset with a new love? I think that could be a good way to live out your life -- at least I hope it was for him.


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Makwa
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posted 07 November 2005 05:07 PM      Profile for Makwa   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Loved many of his books. True modern Gothic. Tight, nervous making and filled with conspiricy and suspicion. Halfway between the early European 'mad monks' and the american pulps. Caught the mood of the nervous new subdivision dweller fleeing the urban rot which follows close behind.
From: Here at the glass - all the usual problems, the habitual farce | Registered: Oct 2005  |  IP: Logged
Nanabush
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posted 07 November 2005 05:09 PM      Profile for Nanabush     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Strange - just started re-reading Daniel Martin (one of Fowles' lesser known novels) last week.
And, when back across the pond three years ago for a family wedding, actually stood on the Cobb (the harbour wall used as the location for Meryl Streep's famous gazing out to sea)

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audra trower williams
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posted 09 November 2005 09:24 AM      Profile for audra trower williams   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Weren't there two different versions of The Magus released? I hated the one I read. An ex-boyfriend gave it to me. It should have been a bit of a warning.
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fern hill
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posted 09 November 2005 10:19 AM      Profile for fern hill        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I'm so glad to see that other people hate/dislike Fowles's work. I found it a misogynist wank. He kept writing the same book, only once having the honesty to give it the same title (yes, you're right, audra, The Magus did have two versions). They all had the two-women fantasy in them. Eeech.
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v michel
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posted 09 November 2005 11:31 AM      Profile for v michel     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I loved The Magus! And the Collector, and the French Lieutenant's Woman. But then again, I love books that make me empathize with someone detestable.
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Cueball
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posted 10 November 2005 01:25 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by skdadl:
And the central character in the Collector is horribly creepy, although the very fascination with treating the woman as a prize is also creepy.

I thought he was a wonderful writer, though. French Lieutenant's Woman has more than a whiff of Thomas Hardy about it, which might be part of the reason it made such a splash. But Hardy was something of a pessimist too.

Anyway, Fowles was magical for many of us in the sixties and seventies, and this brings fond memories. I had thought he was younger than that, maybe ten years younger. Still, if he remarried in 1998, ten years after having a stroke, he must have recovered fairly well in human terms from the stroke and the loss of his first wife.

Spending your last years as a cantankerous "recluse" in Dorset with a new love? I think that could be a good way to live out your life -- at least I hope it was for him.


Confronting ones inner creep is no easy thing. I have a problem with carefully deliniated ideological approaches to art, which insist on clear moral assertions being stated that do not allow for ambiguity, and a realization of dilema, as dilema and not simply an asserion of right or wrong.

Nabakov's Lolita comes to mind, as does The Golden Notebook, also Celine.

Some of Lessing's more succesful female characters are negative in form, not in that they are bad people, but in that their self effacement is discovered to be negative in nature, and not to be emulated. She sees no need to say it in order to prove it through exmple. It was a while ago since I read the Magus, but I remember such a discovery there; a turning of my initial sympathy for the lead charachter into a definte impression that he was a dispicable liar and a coward, not to be emulated.

Did Fowles need to say it, in order to prove it?

I don't find Conrad to be sexist in the manner which I find Greene to be sexist, because though Conrad's understanding of women is definitely a reflection of Victorian values, he does not relegate women to the status of object without motive, an ability to act and ambition.

Conrad writes women as charachters, as in the wife/heroin of the Secret Agent, where one clearly can see a woman trapped in a partiarchal dilema, even though Conrad does not say it, as such. But it can be seen, even today, for what it is and we can attach those modern definitions to the dilema, because of what is evoked by his attempt at a true "realization" of the female character, as a charachter.

This contrast sharply with another book which I greatly love, but I can identify as explicitly sexist by Greene, which is the Quite American, where Greene creates Phong not only as an opaque plot-object, but goes so far as to create her as an as a metaphorical Vietnam, over which the old and new empire struggle, without regard to her as a person, or as a charachter whose motives are even worthy of bothering to write about.

It is a very strange thing to see a brilliant rendering of an political analysis of imperialism, expressed in such an overtly sexist manner. One has to wonder if the realization of Phong as object-metaphor, as subject of male romantic competition as imperialism is not actually an element of the critique.

Other Greene makes me think otherwise, because Greene is obviously not afraid to write women as merely plot-objects, but then there is always that "intentionality" thing, eh?

Perhaps that is the value of writers who write with an eye to intellectual honesty, even if that honesty is creepy in essence. Perhaps we can assert that about Fowles, at least. But then, as I said, it has been a while...

[ 10 November 2005: Message edited by: Cueball ]


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Nanabush
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posted 10 November 2005 02:04 PM      Profile for Nanabush     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
In contrast, the narrator in Daniel Martin is a somewhat confused and introspective Oxford grad turned playwright and Hollywood scriptwriter that you feel is a shallow self portrait of Fowles himself.
The female characters in the book are really quite lightly sketched!

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MartinArendt
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posted 10 November 2005 04:46 PM      Profile for MartinArendt     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I was under the impression that Fowles was considered to be a key figure in post-modern fiction. The French Lieutenant's Woman was in many ways a self-reflective, ironic look at Victorian writing.

Granted, I didn't really like the book, but I did have to read it in High School, which always ruins books for young, impressionable minds.

Nonetheless, Fowles was a remarkable literary figure.


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skdadl
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posted 14 November 2005 08:27 AM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Cueball, I wish I could live up to that amazing reflection on "confronting one's inner creep." I'm following you, in other words, but it has been so long since I've read any of these (wonderful) books -- I'm doing very slow reconstructions in mind as I read you.

I think your comment about Conrad's "realization" of his female characters (some assumption and exploration of motivation or agency), even given their predetermined roles, is acute and provocative, maybe for a good deal of late Victorian literature. In a way, C20 fiction (especially after Hemingway) became considerably more macho than C19 writing had been, even if women's real-world roles were loosening up considerably.

So your reflection on Greene's sexism might be fair, although what you've written about Phong as object-metaphor strikes sparks too. In my memory, while I was above all carried along by the narrator's analysis of the young American, one of the notorious "best and brightest," there was always this tiny little dissenting voice reminding me that some of what I was cheering for was old-fashioned Brit snobbery -- again, acute, but in need of critique itself.

Gee, I have to reread these guys. Everybody seems to be reading The Secret Agent again -- there was an interesting essay in the NY Times Book Review a month or so ago about the even greater relevance of another Conrad novel, Under Western Eyes, which I have read but remember almost not at all.

Back to your opening and concluding reflections: Yes. There are a lot of C20 male writers who fascinate me still and whom I honour, seduced though many were into a culture that I know has always to be alien to me because it excludes me as a thinking agent. But then: life was like that. Often still is.


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Cueball
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posted 14 November 2005 10:10 AM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Phong actually had more literary life than Greene might have imagined for her.

She appears as the heroin of Bao Ninh's The Sorrow of War, as the fierce self-determined romantic, whose love is turned to a very deep cynicism by the ferocity of the war. She is from Hanoi in this incarnation and her hardened inscrutable materialism, which is about the only thing seen of Greene's Phong, has a source, and is an evolution of character.

I could not help feeling that when the victorious NVA enters Saigon in 1975, after a fierce bloody battle with the ARVN, the corpse of the young girl in a party dress discovered by the narrator in a heap of corpses, is Greene's Phong, the Saigon doppleganger to Bao Ninh's Phong, but explained, as if the only thing which seperates Greene's Phong from Ninh's is the fact of death in body.

Nihn's Phong is still obliquely a metaphor for Vietnam, the imperialized Vietnam, but not the inscrutable object Vietnam, the Vietnam of Washington press releases and "the great game" or even of the Vietnam as envisioned by the piously symapthetic men and women of conscience, but a brutalized Vietnam of idealism, love and intelligence turned to shit, and thus indirectly a critique of Greene's narcisistic inability to see and realize Phong, as a Vietnamese woman as Vietnam.

[ 14 November 2005: Message edited by: Cueball ]


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Brian White
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posted 17 November 2005 01:40 AM      Profile for Brian White   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I wish I had never read "the collector".
I bet it fuels some of the sicko's out there to do the things they do without remorse.

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Cueball
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posted 17 November 2005 05:18 PM      Profile for Cueball   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I think the point of the collector, as far as I know, given that I never read it, is to expose the "sicko" inside of more or less anyone.
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jeff house
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posted 17 November 2005 06:38 PM      Profile for jeff house     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Actually, I have read it, and I agree with Cueball. The idea is that the most ordinary man has potential to become a controlling freak.

And to feel pretty justified about it, too.


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