I would be remiss if I didn’t note the passing of John Fowles:
John Fowles, the British writer whose teasing, multilayered fiction explored the tensions between free will and the constraints of society, even as it played with traditional novelistic conventions and challenged readers to find their own interpretations, died on Saturday at his home in Lyme Regis, England. He was 79.
Mr. Fowles’s originality, versatility and skill were nowhere more evident than in his most celebrated novels, among them “The Collector,” “The Magus” and “The French Lieutenant’s Woman.” In “The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” for example, he combined the melodrama of a 19th-century Victorian novel with the sensibility of a 20th-century postmodern narrator, offering his readers two alternative endings from which to choose and at one point boldly inserting himself into the book as a character who accompanies the hero on a train to London.
In “The Collector,” Mr. Fowles painted an eerily plausible portrait of a psychopath who kidnaps a young woman out of what he imagines is love, telling the story from the two characters’ opposing points of view until, at the end, the narratives converge with a shocking immediacy. And in “The Magus,” the story of a young Englishman who gets caught up in the frightening dramatic fantasies of a strangely powerful man on an Aegean island, he again wrote an ending of self-conscious ambiguity, leaving the hero’s future an open puzzle that readers are challenged to solve for themselves.
For those who haven’t read it, The French Lieutenant’s Woman can safely be called a classic of postmodernist writing in no small part because of the fact that it is actually readable as opposed to being an exercise in cleverness (I’m talking to you David Foster Wallace).
The first (and only) great subversive Victorian novel.
Also, highly recommended: A Maggot.