Under the Volcano

by Malcolm Lowry

This book is not long page count–wise, but it ties the record during this project for the single volume that took me the longest to read. I've been at Under the Volcano for THREE SEASONS!? Why? It's just not compelling reading AT ALL. (OK, also life itself has been pretty entertaining lately, but that's a separate issue.) As the story of an actively dying alcoholic, much of the plot is simply too murky to even grasp. I'm left feeling like I went through the DTs right along WITH the main character. And the parts of the story one CAN follow (barely/in the minority) are just not interesting in the least. Why are we reading about this guy? No one cares.

I don't mind the microcosmic struggle of challenging reading if the macrocosmic story is worth it. But this just isn't...by any stretch of the imagination. That it's on the list AT ALL (let alone this close to the top ten, which makes me furious) indicates to me that the Modern Library were all personally suffering Delirium Tremens. Simply stated: I wouldn't foist this book on my worst enemy. I suppose it's possible that if you actively ENJOYED watching the movie Leaving Las Vegas, you MIGHT like Under the Volcano...? Then again... Yeah. Just. No.

The introduction in my paperback says that Malcolm Lowry "spent the happiest years of his life[...]rewriting Under the Volcano many times"! I simply don't find it plausible that one of our greatest works of literature would come out of what is essentially longitudinal solipsistic mental masturbation. I don't think it's any accident that the Italian translation of Under the Volcano was 'lost' and never recovered. Lucky Italy (read: SMART Italy). Additionally, I learn that Lowry was burned in a fire out of which he SAVED the manuscript for this book. As the Italians would say, "Peccato."