Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
There. I finished it. I almost didn't. Portions of this book are so disjointed and stream-of-drunkenness and opaque that I often thought of putting it down. But I felt like I'd made a commitment to my book club, the same commitment that caused me to start reading this in the first place, so I pushed on through and finished it. If I were to rate this book on overall readability, I would probably only give it 2 of 5 stars.
On the otherhand, those same troublesome passages are part of the art of this book. It is full of the writer's art. From the construction of the plot, such as it is, to the characters, rich and alive, to the settings, true and vibrant, the book engages and challenges the reader at every turn. That is why casual readers may turn away, mystified by the hype. That is why some readers insist it is one of the great works of literature, thereby creating, intentionally or unintentionally, that very same hype. On art alone, I would give this 4 out of 5 stars. I would not give it 5, because it does fail to engage so many readers.
On a personal note, I can't decide if reading this at a more leisurely pace would have made it more or less frustrating. Perhaps the same passages that I rushed through because they made no sense would have been even more incomprehensible with more time analyze.
This is definitely not a fast food book. One might call it literary. That doesn't make it bad or snooty. Just challenging. For now I give it 3 stars (average of 2 and 4).
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