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The Magus ()

Modern Library Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century (93)

The original title of this novel was The God Player.  It seems more fitting for a tale where a young English schoolteacher, Nicholas Urfe, goes to a Greek Island and meets a mysterious millionaire/piano teacher/war criminal/sorceror/collaborator/charlatan/etc., named Conchis, who teaches Urfe about himself by drawing him into a game where all is illusion.  Of course, both Conchis and Fowles are playing mind games here and while their manipulations are entertaining at times, they are ultimately simply annoying.  Moreover, unlike God, they seem to have little of value to convey to us and what they do have to say gets muddled in the obfuscations of the plot.

Fowles himself is mystified by the success and continuing popularity of the book.  But in an epoch where people take the philosophy of the Star Wars movies seriously, it is hardly surprising that a pretentious literary effort draws much the same empty headed devotion.

It's an okay book, with some very fine writing and moments of real dramatic tension and mystery, but it could use some serious editing, much plot tightening and some philosophical clarity.


Grade: (C)


John Fowles Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: John Fowles
-OBIT: John Fowles: Bestselling novelist who explored dark themes of time, power and relationships (John Ezard, November 8, 2005, The Guardian)
    -INTERVIEW: John Fowles, The Art of Fiction No. 109: (Interviewed by James R. Baker, ISSUE 111, SUMMER 1989, Paris Review)
-ESSAY: John Fowles, Gent. (BRUCE KINZER, Fortnightly Review)

Book-related and General Links:
    -John Fowles--The Web Site
    -FEATURED AUTHOR: NY Times Book Review
    -REVIEW: of The Magus (Bernard Bergonzi, NY Review of Books)
    -Intro to Modern Library edition: John Fowles: On the bewildering experience of first-bearing
    -SALON: The top 10 travel books of the century
    -REVIEW: of Gore Vidal's Smithsonian Institution: (John Clute, SF Site)
    -Is the 1997 Movie The Game  a Rip-Off of The Magus? (Bob Goosmann)
    -ESSAY: Metafiction (Victoria Orlowski)
    -ESSAY: The Futility of Free Will  in The French Lieutenant's Woman  (Andrea Oberlander)
    -ESSAY: The Illusion of Freedom  in The French Lieutenant's Woman (Nancy Thomas)
    -REVIEW: A MAGGOT By John Fowles  (Herbert Mitgang, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: A MAGGOT By John Fowles  (Walter Miller Jr., NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: MANTISSA By John Fowles (BENJAMIN DE MOTT, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Wormholes: Essays, Occasional Writings (Roger Kimball, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Wormholes: Essays, Occasional Writings (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of A Maggott  (D.J. Enright, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Mantissa (Mordecai Richler, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Daniel Martin (Denis Donoghue, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of The French Lieutenant's Woman (Christopher Ricks, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW:  of The Collector (Eve Auchincloss, NY Review of Books)
-REVIEW ESSAY:  THE REANIMATORS: On the art of literary graverobbing (Jonathan Dee, Harper's Magazine, June 1999)
Discussed in this essay:

 The Hours, by Michael Cunningham.
 The Executioner's Song, by Norman Mailer
 Ragtime, by E. L. Doctorow
 Libra, by Don DeLillo
 The Public Burning, by Robert Coover
 I Was Amelia Earhart, by Jane Mendelsohn
 John Wayne: A Novel, by Dan Barden
 The Blue Flower, by Penelope Fitzgerald
 Arrogance, by Joanna Scott
 The Master of Petersburg, by J. M. Coetzee


I enjoyed the first half of this book more than the second. The mysterious nature of the characters was intriguing at first, but then became tiresome. I enjoyed it though, and I'm glad I took the time to read it.

- Kelly

- Mar-09-2007, 16:45