on February 26, 2004
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. By its end, one disregards neither novelist nor man. Bowker summarizes the matter this way:
"But he did return from hell and the gutter, often enough and for long enough periods, to create one, and possibly more, masterpieces wherein anyone who has ever caught up with Lowry in the toils of human confusion can find a kind of grace and a kind of release."