Malcolm Lowry: Another Tortured Genius
If you thought Hemingway had issues, then you should read about the life of Malcolm Lowry.
During my routine research, I discovered this brilliant, in-depth New Yorker article about Lowry’s life, marriage, brutal alcoholism and drug addictions—and his genius mind that eventually succumbed to an early death.
After meeting Lowry at a party in which he was severely inebriated in New York, Dawn Powell said this: “He is the original Consul in [Under The Volcano], a curious kind of person—handsome, vigorous, drunk—with an aura of genius about him and a personal electricity almost dangerous, sense of demon-possessed.”
From reading about Lowry’s life, and if the Consul in Under The Volcano is based on him, then Lowry lived most of his life drunk.
His second wife, Marjorie, who helped him edit and develop Under The Volcano, wasn’t much better. Depictions of their life together seem more like two crazy, drunk pit bulls thrown into a ring together. At different times, they both attempted to kill and/or strangle each other.
One of Lowry’s biographers even proposes that it was Marjorie who killed him. She called it a suicide, and the coroner called it a “death by misadventure.” Lowry supposedly overdosed on gin and pain pills–but the question is whether or not he was drunk when his wife gave him the lethal pills. He had been used to her giving him vitamins when drunk, so he likely wouldn’t have noticed if she gave him something else.
Regardless, Lowry died young—at age 47. He was called the successor to James Joyce, who passed away six years before Under The Volcano was published in 1947.
After having now read most of the book, it’s easy to see the similarities. Lowry’s writing is complex and rich with symbolism.
So even though I might not be a huge fan of Lowry’s style, it’s hard to argue the merits of his genius—a brilliant guy who seemingly wasted a lot of unused potential.
It’s been a reoccurring theme on this blog: Why are so many of the great writers so screwed up? Tortured geniuses, if you will.
If you have a little time today, check out the full New Yorker article. This is an amazing look at Lowry’s difficult life.