Malcolm Lowry


Malcolm Lowry
Malcolm Lowry

Malcolm Lowry, aged 37.
Born Malcolm Lowry
28 July 1909(1909-07-28)
New Brighton, Merseyside, England
Died 26 June 1957(1957-06-26) (aged 47)
Ripe, East Sussex, England
Occupation Novelist, poet
Literary movement Modernism
Notable work(s) Ultramarine (1933), Under the Volcano (1947), Hear Us O Lord from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place (1961), Lunar Caustic (1968), Dark as the Grave wherein my Friend is Laid (1968), October Ferry to Gabriola (1970)
Spouse(s) Jan Gabrial (1934–1937)
Margerie Bonner (1940–1957, his death)

Clarence Malcolm Lowry (28 July 1909 – 26 June 1957) was an English poet and novelist who was best known for his novel Under the Volcano, which was voted No. 11 in the Modern Library 100 Best Novels list.

Contents

Biography

Lowry was born in New Brighton, Wirral, the fourth son of Arthur Lowry, a cotton broker with roots in Cumberland, and Evelyn Boden. He was educated at The Leys School (the school made famous by the novel Goodbye, Mr. Chips) and St Catharine's College, Cambridge. His home was a substantial 5-acre estate with a tennis court, small golf course and a maid who cooked for the family. Despite his comfortable upbringing, he began drinking at 14.[1] At the age of 15 he won the junior golf championship at the famed Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake. His father expected him to go to Cambridge and enter the family business, but Malcolm wanted to experience the world, and convinced his father to let him work as a deckhand on a ship to the Far East. In May, 1927, his parents drove him to the Liverpool waterfront and, while the local press watched, waved goodbye as he set sail on the freighter S.S. Pyrrhus.[1] The five months at sea gave him stories to incorporate into his first novel, Ultramarine. In autumn 1929 he enrolled at Cambridge to placate his parents. He spent little time at the university,[1] but excelled in writing, graduating in 1931 with a 1st class degree in English. During his first term at school, his roommate, Paul Frite, committed suicide. Frite wanted a homosexual relationship and Lowry refused. Lowry felt responsible for his death, and was haunted by it the rest of his life.[1] The twin obsessions which would dominate his life, alcohol and literature, were firmly in place. Lowry was already well travelled—besides his sailing experience, he made visits to America and Germany between terms. After Cambridge, Lowry lived briefly in London, existing on the fringes of the vibrant Thirties literary scene and meeting Dylan Thomas, among others. He met his first wife, Jan Gabrial, in Spain. They were married in France in 1934. Theirs was a turbulent union, especially due to his drinking, and also because she was upset about homosexuals being attracted to him. After an estrangement Lowry followed her to New York (where an almost incoherent Lowry checked into Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital in 1936 following an alcohol-induced breakdown). When the authorities began to take notice of him, he fled to avoid deportation, and then went to Hollywood, where he tried screenwriting. It was about this time that he began writing Under the Volcano.[1]

Mexico

The couple moved to Mexico, arriving in the city of Cuernavaca on 2 November 1936, the Day of the Dead, in a final attempt to salvage their marriage. Lowry continued to drink heavily, but also poured more energy into his writing.[1] The effort to save their marriage failed. Jan saw that he wanted a mother figure, and did not want to fill that role. She then ran off with another man, and in late 1937, alone in Oaxaca, Lowry entered another period of dark alcoholic excess, culminating in his being deported from the country. In summer 1938, Lowry left Mexico under mysterious circumstances. His family put him in the Hotel Normandie in Los Angeles, his father's cheques going directly to the hotel manager. He continued working on his novel, and met his second wife, the actress and writer Margerie Bonner. In August Lowry moved to Vancouver, Canada, leaving his manuscript behind. Later Margerie moved up to Vancouver, bringing his manuscript with her, and the following year they got married. At first they lived in an attic apartment in the city. When World War II broke out, Lowry tried to enlist, but was rejected. The couple lived and wrote in a squatter's shack on the beach near Dollarton in British Columbia, north of Vancouver. Margerie was an entirely positive influence, editing Lowry's work skilfully and making sure that he ate as well as drank (she drank too). The couple travelled to Europe, America and the Caribbean, and while Lowry continued to drink heavily, this seems to have been a relatively peaceful and productive period. It lasted until 1954, when a final nomadic period ensued, embracing New York, London and other places.

Lowry died in a boarding house in the village of Ripe, East Sussex, where he was living with his wife. Certainly alcohol, and possibly an overdose of sleeping pills, contributed to what the coroner recorded as "death by misadventure". Lowry is buried in the churchyard of St. John the Baptist.

Writings

Lowry published little during his lifetime, in comparison with the extensive collection of unfinished manuscripts he left. Of his two novels, Under the Volcano (1947) is now widely accepted as his masterpiece and one of the great works of the 20th century (number 11 on the Modern Library's 100 Best Novels of the 20th century).[2] It exemplifies Lowry's method as a writer, which involved drawing heavily upon autobiographical material and imbuing it with complex and allusive layers of symbolism. Under the Volcano depicts a series of complex and unwillingly destructive relationships and is set against a rich evocation of Mexico.

Ultramarine (1933), written while Lowry was still an undergraduate, follows a young man's first sea voyage and his determination to gain the crew's acceptance.

A collection of short stories, Hear Us, O Lord from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place (1961) was published after Lowry's death. The scholar and poet Earle Birney edited Selected Poems of Malcolm Lowry (1962). He also collaborated with Lowry's widow in editing the novella Lunar Caustic (1968) for re-publication. It is a conflation of several earlier pieces concerned with Bellevue Hospital, which Lowry was in the process of rewriting as a complete novel. With Douglas Day, Lowry's first biographer, Lowry's widow also completed and edited the novels Dark as the Grave Wherein my Friend Is Laid (1968) and October Ferry to Gabriola (1970) from Lowry's manuscripts.

The Selected Letters of Malcolm Lowry, edited by his widow and Harvey Breit, was released in 1965, followed in 1995-6 by the two volume Sursam Corda! The Collected Letters of Malcolm Lowry, edited by Sherrill E. Grace. Scholarly editions of Lowry's final work in progress, La Mordida, and his screen adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night have also been published.

Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry (1976) is an Oscar-nominated National Film Board of Canada documentary produced by Donald Brittain and Robert A. Duncan and directed by Brittain and John Kramer.[1] It opens with the inquest into Lowry's "death by misadventure," and then moves back in time to trace the writer's life. Selections from Lowry's novel are read by Richard Burton amid images shot in Mexico, the United States, Canada and England.[3]

Bibliography

Posthumous

  • Hear Us O Lord from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place (1961)
  • Selected Poems of Malcolm Lowry (1962)
  • Lunar Caustic (1968)
  • Dark as the Grave wherein my Friend is Laid (1968)
  • October Ferry to Gabriola (1970)
  • The Cinema of Malcolm Lowry: A Scholarly Edition of Malcolm Lowry's "Tender is the Night" edited by Miquel Mota & Paul Tiessen (1990)
  • The 1940 Under The Volcano (1994)
  • La Mordida edited by Patrick A. McCarthy (1996)

Further reading

Biography

  • Lowry, a Biography, Douglas Day (1973)
  • Volcano: An Inquiry Into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry,[1] National Film Board of Canada, (1976)
  • Malcolm Lowry Remembered, G. Bowker, ed (1985)
  • Pursued by Furies: A Life of Malcolm Lowry, G. Bowker (1993)
  • Inside the Volcano: My Life with Malcolm Lowry, Jan Gabrial (2000)

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry". Documentary film (National Film Board of Canada). 1976. http://www.nfb.ca/film/volcano. Retrieved 31 March 2009. 
  2. ^ "Modern Library 100 Best Novels". Modern Library. http://www.randomhouse.com/modernlibrary/100bestnovels.html. Retrieved 13 March 2008. 
  3. ^ IMDb

Sources

  • Asals, Frederick, The making of Malcolm Lowry's Under the volcano (University of Georgia: Athens, 1997)
  • Bareham, Tony, Modern Novelists: Malcolm Lowry (St Martins: New York, 1989)
  • Bowker, Gordon, ed, Malcolm Lowry Remembered (Ariel: London, 1985)
  • Bradbrook, M.C., Malcolm Lowry: His Art and Early Life (CUP: Cambridge, 1974)
  • Cross, Richard K., Malcolm Lowry: a preface to his fiction (Athlone Press: London, 1980)
  • Hochschild, Adam, Finding the Trapdoor: Essays, Portraits, Travels, pp. 265–73, "The Private Volcano of Malcolm Lowry," (Syracuse University Press: Syracuse, 1997)
  • Miller, David, Malcolm Lowry and the voyage that never ends (Enitharmon Press: London, 1976)
  • Smith, Anne, The art of Malcolm Lowry (Vision: London, 1978)
  • Stevenson, Randall, The British Novel Since the Thirties (Batsford: London, 1986)
  • Vice, Sue, Malcolm Lowry eighty years on (St. Martins Press: New York, 1989)
  • Woolmer, J. Howard, Malcolm Lowry: a bibliography (Woolmer/Brotherson: Pennsylvania, 1983)

External links



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