Fowles' The Magus

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Fowles' The Magus

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Bearbeitet: Dez. 31, 2008, 3:26am

This is less of a "I hated it, why do people think it's brilliant" than, "It's an okay work, why do people think it's brilliant." I recently read The Magus, and while I enjoyed Folwes' prose and thought the novel had some interesting ideas and allusions, it overall felt as if it added up to a whole lotta nothin'.

So, callow man-boy gets manipulated by rich man until he reaches some mildly interesting epiphany about his life. As a short story that'd be intriguing. As a long novel, I just reached a point where I felt like, "Ok, just tell me what this is all about," and then "So, that's it?" The novel just didn't manage to hook me with any emotional connection, which is necessary to keep all those plot twists from becoming dull.

Now, I'd say that part of the problem is Nicholas, who's so emotionally flat. I understand that he represents some form of post-WWII ennui, but that alone wouldn't disqualify him. Kerouac's Jack Duluoz displays something similar, except that he actually does something about it. Duluoz is often misguided or self-destructive, but he's actually trying; his struggles are moving, if frustrating. Whereas Nicholas' adventures strike me as ellegantly constructed but utterly artificial, which makes for a novel that seems to sabotage its own arguments for honesty.

So, what am I not getting about this novel? Is it supposed to be ellegant and artificial? Would I get it if I were a 1950's Brit?

Dez. 31, 2008, 4:50am

I am a 1950's Dutch women, an anglophile and a graecofile, who tried two times to read and finish this book. The second time I succeeded, but it was a tiresome & tedious read. I think I miss the knack for this kind of story. Fowles has done much better with The Collector.

Dez. 31, 2008, 9:02am

It was the constant repetition that got to me. How many frigging times can this idiot fall for the exact same BS? Each and every tired vignette was a replay of the last one. It was like being on a treadmill...a lot of effort for no progress. I never finished it. Can't believe it's the same guy who wrote The French Lieutenant's Woman, which I loved. Maybe I'll give The Collector a try.

Mrz. 2, 2009, 11:46am

I read this article yesterday and thought about this thread. Apparently there's a place and a time for The Magus, and that time is when you're young and haven't read better books.

Mrz. 5, 2009, 1:18am

One irony is that it might not only be the better books but even some of the worse (from a literary standpoint) that make The Magus less powerful for me.

For example, I read a fair amount of horror fiction, which has as a frequent devise the plot twist (or surprise ending). I've come to the conclusion that good plot twists are few and far between, and the ones that have seemed most powerful manage to seem both surprising and inevitable.

(If they're not surprising, setting a plot development up as a twist comes off as heavy handed. If the author can't convince you that a twist is inevitable, it can come off as gimmicky or unnecessary. To me, that's the difference between a plot twist that is organic and one that's mechanical.)

Needless to say, I don't think The Magus' plot twists manage to meet both of those criteria. Mostly, there's nothing inevitable about the plot twists. The novel traffics in some unnecessary symbolism about flowers and occultism, but what if his g/f had been named Suzanne? Would Mr. Master Manipulator (Conchis or Fowles, take your pick) just have had to come up with some other overly complicated and contrived set of associations to make us wonder if she might still be alive?

Mrz. 25, 2010, 12:20am

#4 - Great link, thanks. I think that Nick Hornby is right; it has to be not only the right book, but the right time for the right book. I have tried things at certain times in my life and put them back on the shelf, only to come back to them years later to find that it is the right time. As for The Magus, I think it is not only a matter of not having read better books, but of being callow yourself. I liked it as a 20 year old, but tried it again at 35 and wanted to step through the pages of the book to slap the narcissism out of the main character.