May Goodreads Challenge – The Magus

For May I chose The Magus to read from my remaining books. I’ve read John Fowles before – The French Lieutenant’s Woman is one of my favourite books so I had high hopes about The Magus.

It is a big book – not just in length but in content. The blurb talks about our protagonist, Nicholas Urfe, being held by a master trickster – but make no mistake, the master trickster in residence here is Fowles himself.

It took me a long time to read it – not because it was uninteresting or particularly hard, but because it just is a very big book. That being said, the last 200 pages roared by as the plot kicked it up about four gears.

Nicholas Urfe, as a typical rudderless middle-class graduate of the post-war era, finds himself teaching English in a Greek school for boys on a remote, isolated island. It follows nicely from Romance of the Forest with a travel literature edge. Fowles captures Greece wonderfully – his prose reminded me of holidays to Crete and Lesvos and brought back lovely memories. I also liked the TEFL aspect, especially so as Nicholas had similar feelings of unfulfilment regarding teaching that I had experienced in my short tenure.

The book is best thought of as London and England bracketing either side of the fat Grecian middle section. Nicholas flees a girlfriend, disappointment in his own failings and general disillusionment to an island that then reflects these three things again back at him. The master trickster he meets is a strange patriarch, Conchis, who Fowles paints expertly as a man who shifts in all but shape. There are powerful moments detailing Conchis’s life, in particular the recollection of his days serving on the front in WWI, but in typical Fowles style (a la French Lieutenant’s Woman) the rug is pulled out from under the reader’s feet. As a result, the story is lush, deceptive, and twists and turns at every page.

I enjoyed it, though it was strange, and at times felt a little laboured. (I am in the middle of my own editing so I’m seeing everything bloated and over-egged so I might just be projecting outwards.) As a mystery it was good to figure bits out, though sometimes the cycles of mystery were so dense it was hard to decide what the actual point of it all was. It felt a little too high-brow for me at times: a lot about psychology and psychiatry, which went over my head, and sometimes it was hard to keep track of what was real and what wasn’t (though I guess that was purposeful). Nicholas, our narrator, also did my head in from time to time. He was full of his own self-importance, but then again, all his flaws got called out on. This is a story about how our own selfishness and egocentric behaviour can drastically affect those around us – and Nicholas is forced to confront his own shortcomings. I’m not sure if he will really learn from his mistakes, but over the course of the novel he comes a step closer to comprehending that he is not the only player on the stage.

The ending was wholly ambiguous and I made my own conclusion, based on a Disney-fuelled happily ever after.

It is very much a sort of book that will haunt you, and it also makes you not trust anybody or anything they ever say, which is very helpful in everyday life.

My next book is The Meaning of Night, a contemporary Victorian crime thriller, which Maura is cuddling up to below.

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Nurburgring 2016 (May)

our rides

 

So, I think since I last posted anything car-related we’ve gone on a couple of Nurburgring trips! The most recent was in May of this year, and it was different, for quite a few reasons – some sad, and some joyous.

me and steffi

One wonderful reason was for this lady who was my co-driver, passenger, wingwoman, shotgun and general all-round splendid beauty and now honorary member of the “Jallanby” clan, Miss Scatty Jallanby herself, Stephanie Glaves!! (cue rapturous applause) Steffi came, despite (at the time) being a non-car-driver on a car holiday. She very valiantly put up with my driving, my music, and the general specific oddness of the Nurburgring, and I love her ever so much for it, and we had the best time ever, and I am proud to say that now she has got her provisional driving licence and has had at least one driving lesson. Go Steffi go!!

Us in Germany

A sadder reason was that we lost Grandad earlier in this year. For many years Grandad was my Dad’s passenger and co-driver – long before I rekindled my interest in cars, Grandad always went with Dad for the biannual pilgrimage to the Nurburgring, and I think he proudly held the mantle of oldest and fastest man around the Ring. I know there will definitely be some photographs on computers somewhere out in the world of this old chap snoring his head off in a Subaru Impreza. Grandad loved going to Germany and definitely was one of the “boys”; the trip felt very strange without him being there, whether it was him laughing at all the stupid shenanigans we get up to, or else muttering about the rock-hard bread or the steak he couldn’t chew, or even for pinching Dad’s glasses for an entire trip. It was a sad occasion but John (or “JC” as I think he is globally known) made these fantastic stickers for us and so Dad and I had our cars wear them with pride.

Grandad in Germany

Another big change was… Dad didn’t go in the Spec C. Nooo! He went in something else… we call it “Redzilla” – yep, Dad has gone and bought a Nissan GTR!

"Oui oui KK"
“Oui oui KK”

It’s been something he’s dreamt of I think for a good long while. And boy, was it rapido! Bear in mind that Dad knows the Nurburgring inside and out, but the GTR is a very different car to a Subaru – I think my advice to Dad of “take it easy” was fairly sensible! And I’m usually the one going, “go on Dad go on faster do the Ring Taxi do the Ring Taxi!” (actual dialogue). I think judging by the massive grin on Dad’s face he kind of liked his new car (never fear, he still has the Spec C of “fuck me, that was lucky” fame!), and we had some pretty epic laps, including of course chasing the Ring Taxi. Funny how keeping pace with the Ring Taxi was always the big thing to do, and now it’s like see yaaaa. Now I couldn’t find a gif of this scene from The Fast and The Furious, but I found a clip of it:

This has got to be the most quoteable movie ever, and I think Dad and I could just quip it back and forth for the whole film.

We had a great big group of us going – we took up the whole hotel, and I think we all had an ace time.

The obligatory Pinocchio photo op
The obligatory Pinocchio photo op

I think I was getting better, and I even got a couple of “very good”s and “perfect”s off Dad, which is high praise indeed! Even though it was very strange having one member of our group missing, we all enjoyed ourselves, and I especially enjoyed having Steffi with us. It was scorching hot and we got interested sunburns. We weren’t especially impressed with the new car park politics going on – particularly when the Ring Taxi Porsche nearly reversed into the car waiting to exit the car park directly behind it. But no near misses happened and we all got back home in one piece, which is, as always, the most important thing. I’m still chasing that 10 minute lap, and now I think Dad’s chasing that sub-8 minute lap. Preparations are being made for the next trip, so watch this space!

Until next time, petrolheads!

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