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John Fowles: Naturalist of Lyme Regis Paperback – September 27, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


Huffaker, associate editor of Studies in the Novel, in this
sparklingly-written book regards his subject through a self-
reflecting mirror, confident that time will confirm major
claims that the book confers.
--MLA South Central Bulletin

Huffaker's book is the most complete, comprehensive, and detailed of any yet published about John Fowles.
--The Yearbook of English Studies

Huffaker's is a more sophisticated TEAS volume than many . . . . succinctly relating each work to a number of pervasive themes--the importance of nature, "freedom of will and of expression,"  and others. --Year's Work in English Studies

Not fearing to discuss difficult scenes which others have glossed over, Huffaker . . . weaves historical perspective, evolution, fictional modes, Jungian motifs, naturalism, existentialism, and more into his analysis. --South Atlantic Review

Huffaker offers valuable discussion of Fowles's time in France and Greece
and of the influence these experiences had upon his life and work.

--Multicultural Writers Since 1945

Robert Huffaker's introduction to John Fowles is a more sophisticated TEAS volume than many. Huffaker succinctly analyses the fiction, relating each work to a number of pervasive themes--the importance of nature, the need for "freedom of will and of expression," "the lure of mystery and sexual longing," and "conflicts that arise when man's idealism obscures his reality." But Huffaker also introduces other problems and concerns arising from Fowles's narrative: his use of the anti-hero figure, his manipulation of mythic quest archetypes, the influence of such diverse writers as Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf. In a neat summary chapter, Huffaker lauds Fowles's faith in "human feeling and will" which can occasionally triumph "over deterministic forces." Undergraduates will also welcome the annotated selected bibliography --Year's Work in English Studies, 1980

This is a book which has been anticipated for several years and for which there is a need. While there have been increasing numbers of articles on Fowles, there are to date only three books of criticism published, each of which has its limitations. William Palmer's The Fiction of John Fowles is narrow in focus, being overly concerned with tracing and establishing the roots of Fowles's fiction in the works of previous writers and in demonstrating the ways in which the novels are statements of art imitating life. Published in 1974, it covers only the first three novels. Peter Wolfe's John Fowles: Magus and Moralist, published in 1976, also covers only the first three novels. Revised in 1979 to include Daniel Martin, Wolfe's book still excludes discussion of The Ebony Tower. Barry Olshen's John Fowles (l978) is a general introduction which includes discussions of all five fictional works, but Olshen's profuse praise of Fowles hints at a certain myopia. It is thus refreshing to read Huffaker's book, which examines the Fowlesian corpus from many different angles, giving the reader much to ponder.

Huffaker knows his subject well, having written a dissertation on Fowles in 1974. The present study is not a rehash of the dissertation. In fact, it seems to take up where the dissertation leaves off, using the earlier material as a starting place for the greater exploration of Fowles's writing. In this work, Huffaker weaves discussions of historical perspective, biological evolution, fictional modes, Jungian motifs, naturalism, existentialism, and more into his analysis of the fiction. . . .

Chapter 2 provides a thorough discussion of The Magus. Elaborating upon the way in which Fowles combines the quest theme with Jung's analytical psychology to move Nicholas toward a state of understanding that makes him one of the "Elect," Huffaker clarifies much that has been touched on by other critics. The chapter following, on The Collector, concentrates heavily on the broad social implications of the novel and the clash between the economically deprived and the economically comfortable . . . .

The best chapter in the book is on The French Lieutenant's Woman. Here Huffaker explains the narrative technique of authorial intrusion, the multiple endings, the aspects of biological and social evolution, and much more. Not fearing to discuss difficult scenes which others have glossed over or ignored, Huffaker is particularly strong in his analysis of the pivotal scene in the church in which Charles confronts Christ, recognizing the humanity of both Christ and Sarah.

In the chapter on The Ebony Tower, Huffaker continues to elaborate on the interwoven threads Fowles weaves, particularly those of the medieval romance, the quest, and abstraction versus reality. While he touches only briefly on the relationship between the title novella and the medieval romance Eliduc, which Fowles translates and includes in the volume, Huffaker does provide good, if somewhat brief, discussions of the three remaining stories, particularly the troublesome last one, "The Cloud."

The concluding chapter, which recapitulates the previous discussions of the fiction, seems redundant, but the opening section of the chapter accurately assesses Fowles's strength as a novelist in his describing timeless themes with topical application. The bibliography, partly annotated, is thorough and complete. The book is slim but not superficial. The focus is broad, the discussion wide-ranging, and the writing clear enough to be understood by the beginning student, yet sophisticated in ideas and presentation, so as to prove rewarding to the Fowles scholar. --South Atlantic Review, 1980

The writer of a Twayne critical biography of a living novelist whose stature is assured neither by the production of a large shelf of books of demonstrable merit and consistency nor of at least one that is an uncontested masterwork can take one of two positions. He can present an objective assessment of the three or four published novels, indicating the direction of the oeuvre and the evidence, if it is there, of a growing achievement; or he can regard his subject through a self-reflecting mirror, confident that time will confirm those necessarily major claims that the portfolio of the critical biography seemingly confers. Robert Huffaker, a professor of English at North Texas State University and associate editor of Studies in the Novel, has chosen in this sparklingly-written book on John Fowles to take the second course.

Huffaker writes at the beginning of his summary chapter ("Lasting Fiction"):"John Fowles has established himself as one of today's few novelists whose reputation will outlast the century." He goes on the link his man to Thomas Hardy on the basis of their "vivid naturalism" ; to place Fowles in "English literature's landscape-conscious tradition that dates back to the Beowulf and Pearl poets"; and to locate his "depth" in the pursuance of "themes timeless and universal yet important to twentieth century culture."

The bases for these claims are four novels and a collection of thematically interrelated short stories published in the fifteen years between 1963, when Fowles was 37, and 1977. The critical biographer devotes a chapter to each of the first four fictions--The Magus, The Collector, The French Lieutenant's Woman, and the story collection, The Ebony Tower. The last three of these four are thorough, lucid, charged with Huffaker's commitment to the books as significant. The chapter on The Magus, longest of all, is least satisfactory. In its convolutions and resort to jargon, it appears to confirm the novel as an ambitious and brave apprentice work, a work of episodic intensity but lacking organic unity--a novel Fowles published twelve years after beginning it and revised twelve years after original publication.

The 25-page third chapter on Fowles's most popular novel, The French Lieutenant's Woman, is for this reviewer the best of the book, among the best discussions of that innovational work that he has seen anywhere. Huffaker touches precisely the reason why this novel "teaches" so well in senior literature courses. The young reader--open-minded older readers as well--find their sensibilities for new fictional worlds opened up before their eyes. Confronted by a book which mounts a Victorian love story but is related from a modernist viewpoint, in which there are three endings and two entries a` la Alfred Hitchcock of Fowles as a character, Huffaker demonstrates how "even the reader himself must choose whether to evolve." Evolution looms as one of Fowles's--and his hero Charles Smithson's--deepest preoccupations. For all its mixed bag of tricks, Huffaker manages a deft congruence between ideas and action, between spirit-battering concepts and the boggling difficulty of being human. He puts Fowles's accomplishment well: "With old techniques carrying new messages, the novel is a tribute to the Victorian tradition and a credit to the modern one . . . . From behind that old mask, Fowles presents such themes as existential evolution more directly than contemporary techniques permit, finally showing that existential awareness confronted people before the French named it in the 1940s."

Fowles's latest and longest novel, Daniel Martin, rates much less coverage than earlier books. . . . Although calling it "a lovely, profound novel," Huffaker . . . hints that Daniel Martin lacks a strong central character (" . . .the most comfortable Sisyphus imaginable . . . hard to make appealing and convincing") and that Fowles's use of a shifting time frame may be truer to theory than to life ("Considering . . . Jungian theory along with Fowles's horizontal concept of existence . . . one can see why Fowles does not permit his narrator to vary tense and person with absolute consistency").

This is a strong book whose excellence helps justify Twayne's decision to chronicle writers of so-far-unearned literary superiority. Robert Huffaker's book presents a valuable unifying of John Fowles's themes and influences. --Modern Language Association, The South Central Bulletin, 1980

Robert Huffaker offers valuable discussion of Fowles's time in France and Greece and of the influence these experiences had upon his life and work. --Multicultural Writers Since 1945, 1980

From the Author

I first published this volume in 1980 as a part of the Twayne English Author's Series, to whom I am grateful for returning the print copyright to me after its original five printings. I am also grateful to the scholars and other readers who have responded to this book, with the hope that it will continue to be useful as one of the first critical looks at the work of John Fowles, with whom I corresponded for a number of years while he worked with the natural history museum in his Dorset town of Lyme Regis.
Because of the series format's demanding that I summarize plots of John Fowles's stories, I caution you to enjoy his work before letting my revelations spoil the delight of the read.
In memory of John Fowles, a fellow country boy,
Robert Huffaker

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 166 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (September 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1453651241
  • ISBN-13: 978-1453651247
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,697,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

As a reporter for KRLD and CBS News, Bob Huffaker broadcast television's first murder when Jack Ruby shot Lee Oswald. He broadcast JFK's ill-fated motorcade, then the sad Parkland Hospital vigil, interviewed the assassin's mother, and covered Ruby's trial and finally his death, having done an award-winning courtroom interview with Ruby. Huffaker and his KRLD News colleagues worked with CBS to bring Texas news to the nation. When broadcasting JFK's Dallas visit suddenly evolved into reporting a worldwide tragedy, they kept as calm as possible, to encourage the world to remain sane.

They earned the nation's highest honor for their on-the-scene reporting, presented by the Radio Television News Directors Association, which wrote, "KRLD deserves the highest praise for the manner in which its personnel moved without a moment of hesitation from what was to have been normal coverage of the arrival, presentation and departure of the President, into fascinating, elaborate, complete and deeply detailed coverage at the local level of what has to be easily the story of our modern lives."

Huffaker enlisted his former colleagues Bill Mercer, George Phenix, and Wes Wise as co-authors of his 2004 book "When the News Went Live: Dallas 1963." Their vivid first-person account is a clear view of the JFK assassination and its aftermath. From interwoven viewpoints at the center of that tragedy, they show what really happened, how they covered the stunning events for the nation, and how broadcast news has developed since.

Bob Huffaker was born in 1936 to Robert S. Huffaker, Sr. and Eunice Jane Thompson Huffaker in Fort Worth, Texas. He grew up in Port Arthur, the Texas center of oil refining, and in Bryan, the Central Texas city adjoining College Station. He earned an Army commission and B.A. in English from Texas A&M University, then served as a Transportation Corps officer, rising to Captain in the U.S. Army Reserve.

He left broadcast news in 1967 and earned the M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of North Texas and was an English professor at Texas State University until 1980, when, as investigator for the Texas Legislature, he exposed the school for falsifying class records. Now the university honors Huffaker in its Star Hall of Fame for defending press freedom when he headed its student publications committee in the 1970s.

Huffaker was an editor for Texas Monthly, Studies in the Novel, Studies in American Humor, and Modern Humanities Research Association. His widely cited book "John Fowles" (G.K. Hall, 1980) is seminal work about the novelist, and he has written for Southern Humanities Review, Dallas Observer, True West, Senior Advocate, and Texas Parks & Wildlife.

His wife, Dr. Veva R. Vonler, president of the Visual Arts Society of Texas, past chapter president of American Association of University Women, is retired after a career as Associate Dean of Graduate Studies at Texas Womans University, where she still teaches poetry. Their son Kevin Huffaker is a sculptor ( and Director of Classroom Technologies at Texas State University. Their son Zachary Vonler, who served as a Navy medical corpsman, is a software architect in Austin.

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