Fowles died a few days ago, so it seems an apt time to remember the pleasure that his books gave me. I enjoyed The Collector and the French Lieutenant's Woman very much indeed. But The Magus was one of the most gripping books I've ever read.
It's a strange phenomena of reading, that you are doomed to start forgetting what you've read as soon as you put a book down, and more than thirty years on (it can't be that long, surely??) I can remember hardly anything about the plot or characters. But I can remember how the book made me feel. I couldn't bear to come up for air. I didn't want to take time out to eat or to sleep. And I was on an emotional roller coaster; chilled, thrilled, exhilarated by turn. Never mind that Fowles was a "post-modern" writer before the word was even a twinkle in the academics' eyes, he was a damn good story teller who teased and played with his audience, and I was under his spell.
I ought to reread it. Want to reread it. Am afraid to reread it. In case the author's ghost has visited it and changed it in someway.
And because the me I am now will read with different eyes. (Wordly wise, dare I say? More cynical?)
I remembered as I read his obituary the other day, that I haven't yet read a couple of Fowles' novels: Daniel Martin and A Maggot. I just couldn't bear the thought of getting to the end of everything a favourite author had written, so I always left something to enjoy later on. (Not realising that tastes change and great stuff is being written all the time.)
Fowles' diaries have recently been published (how I wish I could afford the book but it's £30.00!). The Guardian printed an extract which gives an intriguing glimpse into his life (he wasn't a happy man, I think) and his thoughts on the three-ring circus of being a famous author:
The Magus comes out on May 2. A meeting with various literary editors at a lunch thrown by Cape; like being a horse and hearing the comments as he is led round the paddock. Not that they are anything but discreetly polite to my face; but I can hear behind their words. No one is further from a writer than a writer about writers; one's simplicity (given by the fact of creating), and their cynicism ...He wasn't in love with fame and its trappings:
Being published interests me a little less each year. I no more want to see myself in print now than a monk wants to do a vaudeville act.Rather :
All the pleasure is in the writing.(This should be our own acid test of how much we really want to be writers, shouldn't it?)
And there are intriguing insights into his creative process:
The French Lieutenant's Woman. I started this today. Not so much with a plot as a need and a language I wanted to use. It was really just one visual idea: a woman standing at the end of the Cobb and staring mysteriously out to sea.Time now to rediscover Fowles, I think.