Dreams that travel back in time have been the stock in trade of this celebrated year-old English novelist through most of his 14 books of fiction and nonfiction. He writes his fictions from a second-floor study in his eclectic 18th-Century house high on the hillside of the town of Lyme Regis. The windows open south onto his exotic garden, a sweeping harbor view of the town, and, further still, the gray-blue of the English Channel and the sky. As curator of the local museum, he also spends much time amid the documents, dinosaur bones and photographs housed in its turreted turn-of-the-century building directly on the seafront. Handling an artifact has the power to call up a past life in his imagination; the haunting eyes of a portrait can recreate the sitter in his mind.
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Return to Book Page. Preview — A Maggot by John Fowles. A Maggot by John Fowles. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published July 14th by Back Bay Books first published More Details Original Title. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about A Maggot , please sign up.
See 1 question about A Maggot…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of A Maggot. Jul 23, mark monday rated it really liked it Shelves: mnemonic-devices , these-fragile-lives , into-the-past. A Maggot is all of those things. A Maggot is far from a whim. View all 76 comments. The best I've read of him. On second reading, the novel holds up remarkably well.
It seems at first a study in the perpetuation of literary suspense. The book jumps between third-person narration; a kind of mock-legal deposition which permits multiple narrative voices; essayistic asides, and epistolary elements. The third-person voice often refers to the gap between events at the time of the story--the s--and our present day.
For example: "Closer, Modern lovers of the second game would have been shocked to see that here it was preponderantly played by girls and perhaps to know that its traditional prize, for the most skilled, was not the million-dollar contract, but a mere tansy pudding. There is an uncle, his nephew, and three servants, one female. We come across them as they travel a muddy road to a bleak village. It is there at the musty inn, and later in a nearby cave, that much of the action occurs; action that will later be dissected by way of a series of legal depositions run by the dwarfish and hateful London lawyer, Henry Ayscough.
We learn a few things during the interrogations: that nephew and uncle are in fact unrelated; that the nephew is the true leader of the excursion; that the uncle is an actor by profession; that the maid is a prostitute; that one of the servants is deaf and dumb; and so forth. Only the nephew who is not a nephew knows the true purpose of the trip, which for most of the book remains a mystery.
We also know that the nephew believes he has hit on a mathematical device or formula that once fully developed will allow him to foretell the future. That is to say, he's crazy as a loon. Still, what can it mean? Why the trip? Why the subsequent investigation?
And where has everyone gone? Slowly, one by one, at the behest of the nephew's aristocratic father, the lawyer tracks down all of the participants save one. And in a question and answer format that allows no room for description, or authorial commentary, he painstakingly gets a story.
But is it the story? That's a very good question and in large part the novel's point, questioning narrative constructs as it does. It is the prostitute's deposition that for this reader was the most engrossing.
For since her excursion to the cave she has given up whoring and has returned to the Quaker community of her parents in Manchester, fully forgiven. What she experienced during that journey she interprets, perhaps the only way she knows how, as an ecstatic Christian experience.
She has been vouchsafed a vision of heaven and hell. Christianity is the only tool she has for interpreting such a fantastic experience. And there's no doubt that she thinks her story is truth. Lawyer Ayscough can not shake her from it.
Nor can he believe it. And in the end is shaken himself. Like her, he is limited, by virtue of his place in time, to viewing it as nothing more than religious hysteria. The 21st century reader, however, sees what has happened in the cave as something quite different.
I'll stop there. Like Fowles' French Lieutenant's Woman , the narrative toys with metafictional devices, but never to the point where they distract. Oh, yes, you'll have to read this one. View all 9 comments. Aug 08, Terry rated it liked it Shelves: historical-fiction , sci-fi. It can be approached as an historical mystery, a meta-fictional experiment of mixed narrative form and genre, and a meditation on the injustices inherent in the 18th century social, political and religious mindset.
The story proper details a mysterious journey undertaken by five individuals across the English landscape whose destination and purpose is unknown.
In addition to this each of the individuals is not what they appear, and may not even be what they themselves think they are. As the story progresses the reader begins to see that even the genre boundaries of mystery and historical fiction are being crossed and significant possible elements of science fiction begin to creep into the tale. Accepting this novel at face value as a historical mystery would be a mistake, especially since it seems to be a mystery whose whole purpose is not to be unravelled.
These disparate characters allow Fowles to put on display a particular aspect of human society that he perceives as having been distinctly strong in 18th century society due to its make-up, but that still exists today: that we are determined by our perceptions and expectations. The question and answer segments are particularly useful in this regard for making explicit how differently each character interprets the same events; how they look to the expected, the known, or the conventional, in order to explain something that is beyond their experience.
Even the visionary falls back onto traditional to her paradigms in order to be able to interpret her life-changing experience. The juxtaposition of perceptions and assumptions of the modern era as witnessed in the 3rd person intrusions with those of the 18th century when the novel takes place are well done, and seem central to the novel. These are characters who very much feel like authentic inhabitants of their era. Their modes of speaking and even of thought are truly alien to the modern reader in many ways.
As a result Fowles is able to use these differences to indulge in his thematic hobby-horses of free will vs. These are ideas that many of us take for granted, but Fowles shows how new and strange many of these concepts were when the novel takes place and they were still in their larval stages. It is an intriguing idea and allows the more obvious meta aspects of the narrative to gain a further level of depth. All that being said I still found the book to be one I felt more obliged to finish than one that carried me along with the rush of its passage.
At times the question and answer sections of the novel seemed to carry on too long and the 3rd person narrative parts could perhaps have been more liberally interspersed into the text than they were.
In the end I guess I would consider this a highly successful meditation on the birth of modernity and the ways in which we have both learned from, and ignored to our peril, the lessons of the past, but only a moderately successful novel.
I think David Mitchell would have written something on the same subject and with the same elements with just as much depth, but that was much more interesting. Apparently, A Maggot was the result of two dicisive factors. The one was the clear, yet uninvited image that once popped into Fowles' mind, of a group of people travelling on horseback in the middle of nowhere, as he informs us in the prologue.
The other one was his admiration for Ann Lee, the founder of a strict yet especially alternative religious group, the Shakers. Although an atheist, Fowles had enough clarity to discern the wisdom behind their religious practices and acknowledge the necess Apparently, A Maggot was the result of two dicisive factors.
Although an atheist, Fowles had enough clarity to discern the wisdom behind their religious practices and acknowledge the necessity of the new in opposition to the old. The creation of something that takes us one step further from the obsolete corpse of a past state. What starts as a whodunnit mystery novel, soon takes a turn towards far more obscure and deep paths. The biggest part of the novel is written in the form of an interview, as the lawyer questions the various suspects in order to uncover the truth behind the servant's death and the mysterious disappearance of a certain prominent person.
Forget the blurbs, they are less than worthless. Even the glowing reviews will soon be forgotten. Awards are no better indicator—half of the writers honored with the Nobel Prize in literature are forgotten and out-of-print nowadays. Wait until ten years after their death, and see if anyone still talks about their books.
Stretching the Surface of Reality : In ‘A Maggot,’ Novelist John Fowles Plants Questions
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