Happy Birthday, Malcolm Lowry
Happy Birthday to Malcolm Lowry, born in Wallesey, Cheshire, in Great Britain, on July 28, 1909. Lowry is best-known as the author of Under the Volcano (1947) his semi-autobiographical novel of alcoholic misbehavior and tragedy set in Mexico, where Lowry lived in the late 1930's. His happiest, most productive period as a writer was spent with his second wife, the actress and writer Margerie Bonner. They lived for several years in a shack on the beach near Dollarton, British Columbia, and it was there that Lowry wrote Under the Volcano, one of the most important novels of the 20th Century. A great deal of Lowry's work was published posthumously, including a collection of short stories, Hear Us, O Lord, from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place (1961), and the novels Dark as the Grave Wherein My Friend is Laid (1968) and October Ferry to Gabriola (1970).
Lowry died under mysterious circumstances from an overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills on June 26, 1957, in Ripe, East Sussex. The coroner characterized Lowry's passing as "death by misadventure," and that might be taken as a summary comment on Lowry's sad drink-fueled life, had he not, in one magnificent novel, told it all so artfully and truly.
Gordon Bowker's Pursued by Furies: A Life of Malcolm Lowry (St. Martin's Press, 1995) is a wonderfully written (if harrowing) chronicle of Lowry's life, work and contribution to literature.
Lowry's writing means a great deal to me. I used a quotation from Under the Volcano as an epigraph for my second book, A Path Between Houses. Here it is:
"Do you know, Quincy, I've often wondered whether there isn't more in the old legend of the Garden of Eden, and so on, than meets the eye. What if Adam wasn't really banished from the place after all? That is, in the sense we used to understand it--" The walnut grower had looked up and was fixing him with a steady gaze that seemed, however, directed at a point rather below the Consul's midriff––"What if his punishment really consisted," the Consul continued with warmth, "in his having to go on living there, alone, of course––suffering, unseen, cut off from God...Or perhaps, " he added, in a more cheerful vein, "perhaps Adam was the first property owner and God, the first agrarian, a kind of Cardenas, in fact---tee hee!--kicked him out. Eh? Yes," the Consul chuckled, aware, moreover, that all this was possibly not so amusing under the existing historical circumstances, "for it is obvious to everyone these days––don't you think so, Quincy?--that the original sin was to be an owner of property..."