Thursday, 21 October 2010

The Firminist

Mischievous world over which merely more subtle lunatics exerted almost supreme hegemony, where neurotic behaviour was the rule, and there was nothing but hypocrisy to answer the flames of evil, which might be the flames of judgement, which were already scorching nearer and nearer…

The above words are the thoughts of William Plantagenet, the protagonist of Malcolm Lowry’s story Lunar Caustic. Lowry began the tale in 1935 after he was interned in Bellevue Hospital, New York following a bout of alcoholic excess – an occurrence he described wryly as a ‘deliberate pilgrimage’. The book was finally published as a novella in the UK in 1963 after, typically, many revisions.

Lowry had a gift for the prophetic. His most famous character Geoffrey Firmin – ‘the Consul’ in his most famous novel, Under the Volcano – stood for the perpetual failure of human beings to achieve wholeness because of desire, fate, weakness and bad luck. Beneath the dense language and layers of symbolism and mysticism in Lowry’s work one can find a profound if unpartisan political message. Plantagenet’s words ring out as a haunting description of our current social, political and environmental malaise.

But ultimately Lowry asked us to accept the fragmentary nature of humankind as somehow ‘normal’, often expressing this through humour. We all experience our own ‘tooloose-Lowrytrek’, but moments of redemptive joy intermittently break out. Lowry left only a small, though vivid, collection of works (stories, novels, poems, songs), but fortunately also a large collection of brilliant letters, which, still echoing out across time and space, remain a source of inspiration and wonder for writers and artists.

The Firminist is an occasional journal devoted to the work of Malcolm Lowry containing essays, reports, graphics – and crosswords. It is of course not intended to supplant the considerable body of research on Lowry already conducted or underway (and we note here especially the work of the Canadian group of Lowry scholars who ran, from 1984 to 2002, The Malcolm Lowry Newsletter/Malcolm Lowry Review), but will, we hope, make a modest contribution to the promotion of Lowry’s work – especially in the UK, the place of his birth and death.

The Firminists
October 2010

I have contributed an essay to the above on Lowry's use of music in Ultramarine.

Please contact me direct to purchase copies:

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