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Wormholes Essays and Occasional Writings.

John Fowles. Wormholes Essays and Occasional Writings. Ed. and introduction by Jan Relf. Henry Holt, 1998. 416 pp. $25.00.

This volume offers a selection of Fowles's nonfiction from 1964 up to 1997, presented under four thematic headings "Autobiographical Writing and the Self," "Culture and Society," "Literature and Literary Criticism," and "Nature and the Nature of Nature." An in-depth interview conducted in 1995 closes the collection.

Defiantly egocentric and unsystematic in his approach, Fowles shares the "magpie" curiosity he ascribes to the seventeenth-century amateur scholar John Aubrey. Fowles repeatedly pits creative authors against professional academics, setting up an extreme dualism that recalls the struggle between the artistic girl and her monstrous abductor in The Collector (1963). Fowles recoilingly implores novelists and poets to steer clear of universities: "One doesn't apprentice a would-be celebrator of life to a college of morticians."

If the cost of Fowles's vigorous dilettantism is a certain rhetorical excess and lack of analytical rigor, the payoff is ready accessibility and liveliness of expression. Admirers of the synthesis of self-awareness and narrative drive in The Magus (1966) and The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969) will find here a wealth of anecdotes and local insights, but no systematic authorial manifesto. Instead, Wormholes comprises an archive of Fowles's lifelong preoccupation with feminism, ecology, left-wing politics, the Victorian mind, existentialism, and French literature and culture.

Fowles is particularly strong on the psychology of authorship, which he theorizes, in essays on Hardy and Alain-Fournier, as the compulsive reworking of an abiding sense of loss (with a nod at the psychoanalytical critic Gilbert J. Rose). The psychology of nationalism is the subject of two brilliant essays, "On Being English but Not British" and "The Falklands and a Death Foretold," the last-mentioned a withering indictment of the jingoistic war between Argentina and Britain in 1982. [Philip Landon]
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Landon, Philip
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1998
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