Category Archives: Under the Volcano

Malcolm Lowry – Writing Drunk with a Hangover

Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry by Donald Brittain & by John Kramer, National Film Board of Canada

Biography of Malcolm Lowry

Biography of Malcolm Lowry

I usually do a bit of research on the current author before we read the next tome. Due to life events, I am behind. To keep up with the expectation of biographies from me.. (I know you really don’t have that expectation but humor me) Once again I am Bleating (Blog Cheating), again. YES!!  A feature length movie about Malcolm Lowry and his semi-autobiographical book Under the Volcano.

Reading Drunk without the Hangover

To be honest, I was avoiding writing this post.  I have so many conflicting emotions and thoughts about this tome.  Let me begin with the fact, I do not like James Joyce’s Ulysses. (I know, a shocker, right?) Andi’s Low  All books I read are compared to Ulysses.  Would I or would I not


tell friends to avoid the book like the plague?  Call it book half-finished point of view but yes I gauge by not the BEST literature has to offer me but the worst.  (To all the literary geniuses out there, remember I am an amateur in the field.  I could trip over a grand work of art and not know it.) Suffice it to say that I now have a new low – Under the Volcano.  If given the choice between Joyce and Lowry, I will take Joyce.  Yes, readers, I have said it.  I would read Ulysses again before I would read Under the Volcano.

There are similarities to these books – a troubled soul, family issues, stream of consciousness (one sober, one drunk), the use of one too many languages, disjointed story line coupled with a disjointed time line.  Is this what makes good literature?  Mmm?

This is not to say there were not some redeeming qualities in this book.  I found once I waded through Chapter 5 the book began to intrigue me – more in the doomed fate curiosity way vice intellectual curiosity way.  It is in Chapter 6 that the story began to develop the characters other than the drunken Counsel.   We learn of his ex-wife, Yvonne that still loves him, Jacques, his childhood friend and Hugh, his lost brother.  Lowry does use an interesting way of developing each of the characters through flashbacks of their lives and in turn, the reader gets to view each character through the eyes of the Counsel – sober and drunk.  Disjointed, hard to follow mess!

As I look at my notes from the book, I wrote, “Great phrasing – pull some quotes.”   Alas, I cannot do this since I loaned my copy of Volcano to my Mom and Dad while they were visiting.  (Keep slogging through, Mom!!)  Dear readers, you will just have to trust me, there are some great combinations of words.

To anyone that has never been tipsy or down right sloshed, this book can provide the drunken rambling logic without the hangover.  (Not that I would know.)  The stream of consciousness is exactly the logic that makes sense to the inebriated.  A twisted path of a story that can be observed yet follows no logic whatsoever.

Lastly, the book left me unsatisfied.  The ending was not as I suspected which was a nice treat yet I was not fulfilled.  I found I had more questions than answers.

Did Yvonne die?  What about Hugh?  And what was with the Indian? 

I felt the book was trying desperately to speak to me and I did not understand its language.  The symbolism was lost on me.  Maybe my engineering trained mind just drew a blank.  That’s it! There was no MATH!  Just kidding… this one really did not do it for me.

How about you?  Can someone out there shed some light on this tome?  What is it that I missed?  What makes it #15 on THE list?

GRAB a book, any book and READ!!