28 July 2009

Late of the Bowery

Much ado in our national press leading to today, the hundredth anniversary of Malcolm Lowry's birth. All this attention by the very same papers that allowed the recent Gabrielle Roy centenary to pass unnoticed. I've never counted myself amongst those who've taken Lowry to their bosom as a countryman. True, roughly a third of his 47 years, certainly his most productive, were spent squatting on our West Coast, but he never did become a citizen. The Globe and Mail reports, 'Mr. Lowry considered himself to be a Canadian and, especially, a British Columbian' – this according to Sherill Grace, editor of his letters. I've not been able to find these declarations in Lowry's own writing.

Two years after Under the Volcano was published, the author complained that Canadian sales had amounted to nothing more than a couple of copies. Doubt it was that small – it needs be said he was quoting a royalty statement – though we were slow to recognize Lowry's genius. When Hear Us O Lord from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place won a Governor General's Award, he was five years dead.

The author is the subject of one of Donald Brittain's finest films, Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry. Someone calling himself WelshDragonJason has uploaded the entire thing to YouTube. It'll be interesting to see how long it stays. This segment covers the writer's arrival in Canada and includes some very amusing observations on a Vancouver that is long gone.

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