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Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.

Under the Volcano - Malcolm Lowry

I know as a writer I'm supposed to LOVE this book.  People say that no writer can afford not to read it, and none will fail to fall under its sway.  Alas, I've managed exactly that.  I'm sure it was groundbreaking at the time it was written, when there were quite a few writers -- mostly male and as high on the old booze as Firmin (the main character of UtheV) himself -- waffling on in faux Joycean wordmash poetics.  (Good Lord, it's contagious.) And although when one uses a scatter gun approach to wordsmithery one is bound to come up with a few glorious phrases, they seem buried to me under an, ahem, volcano of self-indulgence.  

It is a book of monumental ambitions and is autobiographical, reflecting Lowry's own descent into alcoholism.  As a person in recovery myself, I do recognize much of the fragmented, grandiose, self-pitying rantings as accurate, which is indeed something of a feat, and the dense symbolism is impressive. In the end, however, I found myself unable to sustain my interest under the sheer weight of what felt like the author's sense of self-importance.  It were as though on every page he wished the reader to cry out "My gosh, what a brilliant writer!" I kept wanting to push him aside to get to the characters and their story.

I do recognize the fault may be entirely my own, here.  This is simply not the sort of writing that I find alluring, as a fan of Gabrielle Roy, Alistair MacLeod, Kent Haruf, David Adams Richards, Muriel Spark and Jane Gardam, I suspect I'm simply not this book's intended audience.