The Fiction of John Fowles: Tradition, Art, and the Loneliness of Selfhood

The Fiction of John Fowles: Tradition, Art, and the Loneliness of Selfhood

The Fiction of John Fowles: Tradition, Art, and the Loneliness of Selfhood

The Fiction of John Fowles: Tradition, Art, and the Loneliness of Selfhood

Excerpt

An impotent kidnapper, twin actress sisters each with a double identity, Nazi sadists and an Eleutheria man, a Victorian prude, and a circa— 1867 Soho prostitute—these are some of the characters who pace the rooms, walk the islands, and for good or bad, inhabit the world of John Fowles's fiction.The Fowles world stretches through time and space from modern- day London to the island of Phraxos off the coast of Greece to the mystic wilderness of Norway to Aix-la- Chapelle during World War I to the Dorset coast in 1867 and back to Victorian London.In the last decade, John Fowles has published three novels—two of them, The Collector and The French Lieutenant's Woman, became runaway bestsellers; the other, The Magus, is his most ambitious novel—and The Aristos, a philosophical analysis of mid-twentieth-century life.By stylistic mastery and experimental inventiveness Fowles creates worlds which can be mystical, mythical, or starkly real; or, as is most often the case, all three simultaneously.

Fowles fiction is like a huge protean amusement park, a literary Disney World enisled in a sea of potential interpretation.But the park is sinister, not gay; dark, not ferris wheel-lighted and lantern-strung. And the people who come to the park are always alone. They pass through the main gate where Dostoevsky, a microphoned Cerberus, barks, "Step right inside, everything is permitted!" Sartre sells tickets to the maze and Camus operates the lightless ferris wheel which never stops yet never progresses. Richardson shills people into the inner darkness where the girlie . . .

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