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Lovely Lowryness


I mentioned a week or so ago that a new author had joined my collectibles list: Malcolm Lowry. After finishing his Hear Us O Lord from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place, I was immediately a fan and went onto to hunt down first editions. And here are the first ones I’ve bought:

Lowry died in 1957 and only saw two of his books published – his debut Ultramarine and the novel for which he is famous, Under the Volcano. He left behind a number of manuscripts and hundreds of poems, which his wife and others edited and then arranged to be published.

Ultramarine (1933)
Under the Volcano (1947)
Hear Us O Lord from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place (1961)
Selected Poems of Malcolm Lowry (1962)
Lunar Caustic (1968)
Dark as the Grave Wherein My Friend is Laid (1968)
October Ferry to Gabriola (1970)
The Collected Poetry of Malcolm Lowry (1992)
The Voyage That Never Ends: Fictions, Poems, Fragments, Letters (2007)

As well as the four first editions in the photographs, I also have Lowry’s first three books as battered Penguin paperbacks from the 1960s. Much as I’d like a first edition of Under the Volcano, they cost upwards of £700, so they’re a bit out of my range…

4 thoughts on “Lovely Lowryness

  1. I haven’t read any Lowry but must give “Under the Volcano” a try. There is definitely something special about pre and post war British fiction.

    I am normally a three-books-a-week reader, but due to four operations since February for a detached retina my reading has been restricted to about 30 pages a day, and if you have limited reading you want to read the best prose.

    I have just finished Durrell’s “Mountolive” and “Clea”, and while I will admit that the man’s style is over the top it is great to just savour the words. I got so much more out of the books than the first time I read them in my youth. I used to see Darley as a poor romantic hero, but on this reading he is an over-dramatic failed writer who is manipulated for political reasons by most of his friends and lovers. I still love the books and have just started the Avignon books. Have you read them, and do you have an opinion on them compared to Alexandria?


    • Yes, I’ve read the Avignon Quintet. They’re cleverly done, in that the first book proves to be a fictionalisation of the events in the second book. But then one of the fictional characters slowly insinuates himself into the “real” story of the quintet. Durrell does seem to lose the plot at one point and Constance feels like a bit of a tangent. The resolution of the plot also feels a bit rushed in Quinx. But then I don’t think plotting was ever one of Durrell’s strong points – not did it need to be when he could write prose the way he did.

      You should also give Paul Scott a try – he’s another good one.

  2. One of the best biographies of any writer I’ve read is Malcom Day’s Malcolm Lowry – a superb, insightful and moving piece of work. One of the heroines who emerges from the book is Lowry’s long-suffering wife, who while living in… Oregan, I think it was… churned out detective novels in order to keep them fed.

    Not many books for you to collect, Ian. Good luck!

    Eric Brown

    • Given that most of Lowry’s fiction was semi-autobiographical, it can’t have been as hard a biography to write as for some authors 🙂

      I’ve had a copy of Ian MacNiven’s biography of Lawrence Durrell for a while now, but its sheer size puts me off trying to read it. I think it’s the largest hardback I own… and I have a copy of Ash: A Secret History

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