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Pursued by Furies: A Life of Malcolm Lowry Hardcover – October, 1995

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: St Martins Pr; 1st St. Martin's Press ed edition (October 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312127480
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312127480
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,682,104 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At age 15, English novelist Malcolm Lowry (1909-1957) composed hymns of hatred against his unloving mother and rebelled against his humorless, authoritarian father, a wealthy Liverpool cotton broker. At Cambridge, Lowry recklessly goaded suicidal fellow classmate Paul Fitte to kill himself, a fatal taunt that left Lowry with lifelong guilt. In this ruthlessly probing biography, British freelance journalist Bowker skillfully navigates the maze of Lowry's messy life marked by violent alcoholism, two unstable marriages and stints in jails and mental institutions as he drifted to and from London, Paris, New York and Mexico. Lowry's novel Under the Volcano (1947), a savagely honest portrait of his alcoholic suffering, is an existential exploration of alienation, exile and identity, but he never produced another masterpiece, claims Bowker, because his energies were diverted by accidents, illnesses, booze, private terrors and his second marriage, at once "idyllic and Strindbergian," to former silent-movie actress Margerie Bonner. She told a selected few friends that Lowry committed suicide. Though the circumstances surrounding the writer's death remain a mystery, Bowker makes a startling observation: Lowry, who was obsessed with dates, died on Paul Fitte's birthday. Photos.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Lowry's 1947 novel, Under the Volcano, was a best seller that is still highly acclaimed by serious critics, yet the author remains one of this century's least appreciated British writers. A psychologically troubled man and sometimes violent heavy drinker who seemed to seek life on the edge in order to write about it, Lowry turned his life into brilliant fiction and often fictionalized his life, a process Bowker, an English editor of Lowry memorabilia, is sympathetic to and honest about in this first biography of the writer in 20 years. Bowker's thorough, well-researched, well-written work is fascinating if sometimes depressing reading; highly recommended for British literature collections.?Judy Mimken, Boise P.L., Id.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ian Muldoon on April 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read this because I remain convinced that Mr Lowry's novel UNDER THE VOLCANO is one of the great tragic works of literature of the 20th century and its power remains with me after 30 years. In this biography the alcoholic writer's creative process is revealed in detail as well as his determination to destroy himself - in detail. I've often thought of Geoffrey Firmin/Malcolm Lowry as the essential 20th century man - we came close to destroying the world last century but failed. This is a solid well written biography and suits the general reader.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is a much needed improvement on the Douglas Day bio of some years ago (though, I admit, a bit less fun to read). It's been covered in all the major reviews, of course, and I'm sure all you Lowryeans out there have a copy and love it for the wealth of information it contains that was absent from the Day bio and other sources...But, as a long-term Lowryean myself, I thought I'd add my bolus of criticism: Mr Bowker has a great advantage over previous writers on Lowry: He has found that the great author's first wife, Jan Gabrial, is not only alive and well, but eager to discuss all aspects of her relationship with her former spouse (with Bowker anyway). This revelation colors Mr Bowker's entire biography. It also, however, leads to the greatest flaw in the book: The simplistic polarization of Conrad Aiken vs. Nordahl Grieg as the Dark Angel and Light Angel, respectively, in Lowry's psyche. Ms Gabrial obviously detested Conrad Aiken and credited the dissolution of her marriage to him. No doubt she has cause to do so. But nobody who has spent any time reading Conrad Aiken's beautiful and much-neglected poetry can believe he was as consumately evil as Ms Gabrial, via Mr Bowker, makes him out to be. Still, this is a minor quibble for such an obviously painstaking and thorough work. It's refreshing to see the greatest poetic novelist of our century getting some attention toward the end of it!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By John Guess on February 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
I bought this large, six hundred page book because I got a deal on a cheap copy. But I couldn't help noticing the impressive effort to produce so thorough a work, and on such a complex subject. It crossed my mind more than once that Gordon Bowker had not been paid his due, at least not by me.

But "Pursued by Furies" has received a significant amount of attention and praise. It is deserved, in my view.

Still, at least some editing is in order in relation to Lowry's years at Dollarton (two hours drive from where I now sit.) Episode after episode of abusive, maniacial drunkness (with little literary output to show for it) seemed excessive. Paired with Lowry's extraordinary ability to deny reality -- including to those in the publishing world who supported him -- the downward spiral felt repetitive, and brought me close to abandoning the book.

I noted with irony Lowry's conceived (but unfinished) novelic cycle "The Voyage That Never Ends." Mired in the book's latter third, I could only nod affirmatively. Which is to say that twenty drunken, despotic episodes wherein Lowry lies to everyone he knows -- including and especially his wife, Marjorie -- while collapsing as author and man are hardly different from, say, fifteen.

Lowry's forced relocation to Ripe, England -- the pastoral countryside -- helped the book pick up. It is here that Lowry undergoes comprehensive treatment for alcoholism (shocking as these "treatments" were.) One gets the strong impression that this deeply inspired, fury-chased man is readying wings, about to claim both his literary gifts and independence. But Lowry's furies are not so forgiving.

At times a who's who of 20th century literati, "Pursued By Furies" concerns itself chiefly with its subject.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John Noodles on June 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is one of two biographies of Malcolm Lowry that I have read. The first was Douglas Day's biography--a sort of psycho-literary look at Lowry's life. It's not bad, but Bowker's book goes far beyond Day's. This book is much richer in detail--detail that casual readers might find overwhelming, but that Lowry afficionados will wallow in.
Also, Bowker has tracked down Lowry's first wife, Jan Gabriel, who adds to the story of Lowry's life a dimension absent from Day's book.
Anyone who has read Lowry's work has certainly suspected that his art mirrored his life, that much of what he wrote was autobiographical, in spirit if not in detail. This book confirms those suspicions, showing how truly excessive Lowry was in pretty much all aspects of his life: his drinking, fear, childishness...
A great biography of a great writer.
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