A long time ago, my sister threw John Fowles across the room.
Ok wait, yes, she was a powerful little Italian – rest in peace, dear Sis – but I don’t mean that she actually lifted up the man from Lyme Regis and tossed him like a sack of potatoes. It was his book, The Collector, that took flight in my sister’s family room and smacked against the wall.
Lately, I’ve been feeling the same way about another Fowles’ novel, The Magus (which inspired the 1968 film with Candice Bergen, Anthony Quinn, Michael Caine, and Anna Karina), probably for the same reasons.
When I look at the bestsellers lists of the New York Times and other outlets, I realize how far away is the world that celebrated and raved over Fowles’s books and made him wealthy enough to be a writer and only a writer. Everything on the bestsellers lists today with a few exceptions — Colson Whitehead probably — smells of symmetry and neatly-resolved endings.
But, my beloveds, I must confess to you, and only to you, that I am not writing this post from a lofty pulpit. I am not some ultra-refined reader who appreciates only the fiction that’s heavy on the meta- and light on happy endings. Symmetry and resolutions appeal to me, too — I’m not saying I need happy endings, just a resolution that makes sense, even if it’s a tragic one.
I’m sure that some of you reading this feel the same way.
And yet. And yet.
Despite my annoyance with both The Magus and The French Lieutenant’s Woman, I’m turning to Fowles again. Which book? The one that fueled my sister’s fury, of course.
I want to give his work another try, even though I feel, as I turn each page, like a guy in a dark room who knows there are ninjas hiding behind the furniture.
I’ll tell you all about it when I’m done, my friends. Or after that book hits a living room wall in our house.
Until then, onward.