8 Nov 2005
John Fowles, author of “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”, “The Collector” and “The Magus,” died Saturday at age 78 in Lyme Regis, England.
Frank Wilson over at Books Inq. points to two excellent obituaries by The London Times and The Telegraph. There is also one by Sarah Lyall in The New York Times. You may also be interested in this dissection of “John Fowles: The Journals, Vol. 1” that appeared in The London Review of Books. Judging from the extracts, it appears that Fowles was a smaller-than-life writer:
Basically, according to Fowles, everyone else is totally crap: useless, rubbish, a waste of time and not worth bothering about. He starts with his parents, as is traditional, and moves on from there. The parent-hate stuff is more Mole than Freud – not so much traumatising primal scene as terribly noisy hoovering. They tidy up, your mum and dad. ‘Spasm of hate. Trying to listen to Mozart 465 Quartet, when M[other] seems, almost deliberately, to spoil it.’ Every schoolboy knows that parents have no taste, but Fowles remains a pitiless adolescent into adulthood. ‘A new view on my parents, which embraces all their faults – or better, the qualities they lack. They have no sense of style. They can’t tell a stylish jug from a pretty jug, they don’t feel the style of things, of a book, of a piece of music, of a meal, of a flavouring, of life.’ ‘For some time,’ he concludes, ‘I feel willingly that I could like killing them.’ He does his best to analyse his parents’ apparent failings, compared to his own obvious excellence, and this is what he comes up with: ‘The difference in environmental norms accounts for much – a boarding-school, an officers’ mess, a university, all have led me into a much wider plane than 25 rather introvert years in the same quiet household, where the class has slipped.’ All that education didn’t go to waste, then. His poor sister, who is younger than him and who can therefore never catch up, comes off even worse: ‘Hazel is an interesting test-object for egotism. Financially it is to my benefit that she should not exist . . . She merely seems like a small pet.’