Under the Volcano

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Behavioural patterns that had no name are also identified - and unhelpfully referred to as "defects of character" - though the recognition that alcoholic conduct can wildly vary was massively important to the burgeoning recovery process in the s, and has continued as a cornerstone of recovery ever since. Go to any AA meeting and you'll hear strange shibboleths that will become familiar after a time.


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People talk of "the rooms", the "steps and traditions" and someone called "John Barleycorn". And then there are "dry drunks" and "bellybutton birthdays" and something called "geographicals".

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The Australian AA website defines a geographical as: "Trying to solve our problems by moving to a new location, an attempt to cure our alcoholism by getting a 'fresh start' in a new city. It doesn't work. There is a saying around AA, 'Wherever you go, there you are. Lowry himself was a drunk prone to upping sticks and attempting to make a life for himself elsewhere.

Born in New Brighton in Cheshire to an affluent family in , he was educated at Cambridge, and his early peripatetic adventures included working as a deckhand on a tramp steamer to the Far East. Before all that, as a youth, he was decorated with sporting accolades, including winning a junior golf tournament at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club at As an upper middle class son of a cotton broker he had a maid, a cook and a nanny, but he spent his life feeling neglected by his mother and was apparently tormented at school because of the size of his hands. Lowry was also said to be haunted by the guilt he felt when his roommate at Cambridge committed suicide, after Lowry spurned his advances, and an ill-advised trip to the Syphilis Museum on Paradise Street in Liverpool at the age of five disturbed him for life.

By this time he was gadding about in London, Paris and parts of Spain, devoting his time to his two obsessions: literature and alcohol. He identified with the poets of the New Apocalyptics movement, especially the more bibulous ones like Dylan Thomas.

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The 100 best novels: No 68 – Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry (1947)

When he ran into marriage problems with first wife, Jan Gabrial, he went to New York - a city he loved for its "existential fury" - and he eventually checked himself into the Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital in ; those experiences are recounted in the novella Lunar Caustic , published in , 11 years after his death.

Jan Gabriel could apparently no longer cope with marriage to an alcoholic manchild who needed a mother more than a lover, and took off with somebody else. Lowry was apparently locked up three times, once over Christmas, and was deported in under mysterious circumstances. He then spent some time in another clinic in Los Angeles, paid for by his father.

Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry

He met his second wife, Margerie Bonner, and they went to Vancouver soon after. It was supposed to be a short trip, but Lowry ended up staying for 14 years. Volcano was submitted to publishers and was rejected by all of them. He continued to rewrite and redraft with the help of Bonner, and the novel was finally published in to some acclaim.

Problems with classification no doubt put many publishers off, though one imagines endless redrafts only rendered it more labyrinthine and strewn with arcane symbolism. It is hot music, a poem, a song, a tragedy, a comedy, a farce and so forth. Few books capture the melancholy and excitement and the regret that the drunk experiences.

Penguin Modern Classics Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry | Penguin Random House Canada

The beautiful absurdity of a line like: "How, unless you drink as I do, could you hope to understand the beauty of an old Indian woman playing dominoes with a chicken? He conjures the lumpen despondency and hopefulness with the unforgettable simile: "He felt rather like someone lying in a bath after all the water has run out, witless, almost dead. He was buried in the churchyard of St John the Baptist in Ripe with seven mourners at his graveside. His epitaph which he wrote for himself read: "Here lies Malcolm Lowry, late of the Bowery, whose prose was flowery, and often glowery.

He lived nightly, and drank daily, and died playing the ukulele.

Under the Volcano

The writer had imbibed some 30 amobarbital tablets with copious amounts of gin. First published in it has often been described as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. The story recounts the final day in the life of Geoffrey Firmin, British Consul, and chronic alcoholic. Full of symbols and allusions to literature, religion, and mythology, Under the Volcano takes place in Cuernavaca on the Mexican holiday of the day of the dead. According to popular belief, the deceased have divine permission to visit friends and relatives on November 2nd.

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Relatives decorate grave sites with flowers and candles and bring food, drinks and presents to their ancestors to enjoy. To outsiders, this may seem macabre, but in Mexico, death does not signify an ending but a stage in a constant cycle. The dead are never forgotten because once a year they take their place next to the living and enjoy the fruits and flowers of the earth. As the first craft cocktail bar in Houston, with an emphasis on Latin American flavors, only fresh squeezed juices and fresh herbs are incorporated in our drinks!

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