Under the Volcano

By Malcolm Lowry
Published 1953
GoodReads rating: 3.8
GL rating: 3 out of 10
(Comments originally posted on FB June 29, 2018)

I can see why the novel is frequently called one of the best of the 20th Century, the writing is frequently good and less frequently stellar. However, I just couldn’t get through it. It’s a 390 page novel about a man getting drunk and dying over the course of a day. The shards of plot, to the extent that there is a plot, come in paragraph-length bursts every 10 to 15 pages, and in the intervening 15 pages you get mostly the two male characters riffing internally on various topics, or you get descriptions of landscapes. Lowry’s sentences are too frequently run-ons, and they are not pleasing beautiful run-ons, they are convoluted run-ons. At the end of the day, it got to be very tedious reading. If anything it underscores what a superb book Austerlitz is, which has a similar pastoral and contemplative approach to its narrative, but is much more compelling.

Because it’s such a renowned book I’m going to continue to peck at it now and then. If the second half blows my mind I’ll revise and resubmit.