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review 2016-05-23 00:00
Mantissa - John Fowles "Mantissa" means essentially an unnecessary verbal addendum. Mildly amusing, mildly erotic, mildly neurotic. It mostly seems like the work of a dirty old man treading water, mildly undecided between putting sex or love, or some combination of the two, at the sole apex of life, while suspecting those same impulses for trapping him in boring dialogues and marriages. I thought his suggestion to this imaginary woman that she try working as a reviewer was ugly and uncalled for.

Fowles had unaccountably been in England too long, after several early years believing he was somehow Greek. But we're still treated to a lot of nonelucidated namedropping of Greek words, Greek authors, etc., etc. Per my, verbally, far more interesting book, "Are the English Human?", written by a Flemish/French immigrant to the UK in the 1920s, Fowles has become thoroughly English here; he has become indifferent to the English language, although he's still enthralled by a long Greek trainwreck of a word or two. It seems Brits of a certain age can write these unobtrusive, non-explicit stage plays, one after another, if they're less honest than Fowles.

Happily, the "meta" part of this meta-novel seems largely subdued. Just as happily, the hilarious and pointed asides about deconstructionists, postmodernists and other weirdos of 80s academia who "proved" that authors don't write their own books are barbs now missing their target, since I can see no evidence that readers bother to even buy postmodernist books.

Suspicion #1 confirmed: this was the last novel Fowles wrote
Suspicion #2 uncomfirmed: he was only middle-aged, not old
Suspicion #3 unnecessary: Was he (happily?) married at the time?
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review 2016-03-09 00:00
The Collector
The Collector - John Fowles Creepy. I distinctly enjoyed Frederick's POV (he's the collector) over Miranda's (she's the collectee).
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review 2016-02-01 06:19
The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
The French Lieutenant's Woman - John Fowles

Let’s call it 3.25 stars. This novel is basically one big gimmick. Fowles writes well and has done his research, so he pulls off the gimmick fairly well. But it is still a gimmick, and the story itself isn’t strong enough to stand on its own. This review will contain some SPOILERS.

The story consists of a simple love triangle involving Charles (the gentleman), Ernestina (his proper young fiancée) and Sarah (the mysterious “fallen” woman). It makes a thin plot for a 467-page book; what sets the book apart is the intrusive narrator. The book is set in the 1860s, but Fowles writes it explicitly from a 1960s perspective, commenting on aspects of life at the time, and then veers off to talk about the writing of the story itself and the different ways it could possibly end.

It is an unusual choice, and in that sense it’s interesting, though in this day of author blogs, a “behind the scenes” look at the author’s process isn’t the novelty it may have been in pre-Internet days. As a reader who is interested in history, I did enjoy the author’s stepping in with asides like, “the Victorians talked a good game about chastity, but actually the number of brothels per capita was enormous,” or “let me tell you how this landscape has changed in the last 100 years” or “here are some weird household implements from the 1860s.” Historical fiction is generally expected to wear its research lightly, with the result that readers are often too busy identifying with the characters to learn much about the setting. This book doesn’t have those constraints, so the tidbits about the era are interesting, and Fowles writes well enough to get away with the occasional digression, expounding on his opinions of the differences between the two time periods.

But then we come to Sarah. Fowles tells us outright that he doesn’t know what’s going through her head – it shows, and that’s a real weakness, given that she’s the book’s second most prominent character. At first, Charles sees her as a simple “fallen woman,” ashamed and pining for the eponymous French lieutenant, who seduced and then left her. Cliché, but comprehensible. Then we learn that she never loved the guy at all; rather, she suffers from depression and feelings of isolation, and “ruined” herself on purpose to create an external cause for her outcast status and exempt herself from society’s expectations for respectable women. Now we are getting somewhere; this is what I want from literary fiction. But then we find out . . . that it was all a charade, and actually she just goes around faking maladies all the time, in hopes that a man will eventually appear, be overwhelmed by a sense of protectiveness and fall in love with her, so that she can . . . leave him? What? The author attempts to support this by having Charles read some 19th century psychological treatise claiming this is known female behavior and possibly caused by sexual repression. Which is clearly bunk in light of what we now know about mental illness, and leaves us with a nonsensical character, who may have engineered the whole plot to get back at men, via Charles, for the French lieutenant (whom she didn’t love anyway?) leaving her. Because that makes total sense. Or maybe she didn’t, and was actually motivated by . . . what? Who knows?

At any rate, if you love metafiction, you should probably give this book a whirl. If you don’t, though, the story isn’t particularly strong, and to me a basic task of fiction is the creation of a work that can be enjoyed simply for its plot and/or characters. So, while not by any means a poorly-written book, this isn’t one I’m likely to recommend.

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text 2016-01-27 18:01
Reading progress update: I've read 290 out of 656 pages of The Magus and...
The Magus - John Fowles


I am bored. So, so bored. 


About halfway through now and suddenly the story seems to have changed from interesting and intriguing to OH MY GOD when is something going to happen?

I took a quick break from this to read something else, something NOT BORING! 


Any words of encouragement for me out there? Is it worth it to struggle on?




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text 2016-01-19 19:02
Knocking Two Big Tomes off the TBR!
The Magus - John Fowles
House of Leaves - Mark Z. Danielewski


I'm excited to finally be reading The Magus by John Fowles! It's been on my TBR for what feels like forever now. I moved last year and due to some family health issues, I only just a few weeks ago found my new, local library. Once I did, I then discovered both the Fowles books I had been wanting to read for so long! Whoohoo! (And quietly, to myself, a big Pffft to Amazon. I am NOT paying $10.00 for Kindle versions of books written in the 60's.)


I added House of Leaves to the header because after The Magus, (a 600 page tome), I plan to participate in a buddy read of it over at Goodreads. (You can join us here, if you like!) Now, HOL is also a doorstop of a book and it HAS to be read in print. (Or at least, there is no Kindle version of it, I'm sure there are bootlegs somewhere, I wouldn't know.) I finally broke down and bought a print copy of it back in September. I've peeked at the inside of it from time to time. The print is all over the place on the pages of this book. Sometimes the print circles the outside edges of the page. Sometimes the words are placed diagonally. I believe I saw one page where the words were upside down? It's a bit intimidating and I have NEVER been intimidated by a book before. At the same time, I'm most excited about finally reading this thing, because I've been wanting to for SO LONG!


Am I the only reader that gets excited, not only about reading the book for the story, the characters and all that, but also because I'm eager to finally knock it off my super huge TBR? What books would you like to knock off your TBR and why? Talk to Char below! 

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