My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Collector (1963) by John Fowles is the second book I have read by him and it is safe to say that I am without question a huge fan. Fowles is able to do what most other authors only dream of with the two narrative voices that are as distinct and profound as the other, illuminating the story from mere words on a page to a true memory that is just as haunting in one form of action as it is in its recondite social commentary.
The book is comprised into three parts and two character points-of-view. The first, third and fourth sections are the majority and are comprised of Frederick Clegg’s voice. The second section is the voice of Miranda Grey, an art student.
Clegg (who is called Caliban by Miranda) is a lonely clerk who lucks upon the lottery. He purchases a cottage in the woods near Lewes, England and decides to kidnap Miranda and hold her in a special room he has built in the cellar of his house. Clegg has no sexual desire, being somewhat either impotent or mentally twisted, and only photographs Miranda in sexually provocative poses. He promises to never harm her and instead lavishes her with art utensils, music records, clothes and jewelry. Nevertheless, he remains an unreliable narrator who falsely appears more as a star-struck lover than a madman. Clegg reflects about Miranda:
”I could sit there all night watching her, just the shape of her head and the way the hair fell from it with a special curve, so graceful it was, like the shape of a swallowtail. It was like a veil or a cloud, it would lie like silk strands all untidy and loose but lovely over her shoulders. I wish I had words to describe it like a poet would or an artist. She had a way of throwing it back when it had fallen too much forward, it was just a simple natural movement. Sometimes I wanted to say to her, please do it again, please let your hair fall forward to toss it back” (p 61).
What is quite extraordinary with Fowles’s projections, in addition to his ability to draw shapes and images and emotions from language, is that The Collector becomes a psychoanalytic formulation of an evil mind. One might argue quickly that it is Clegg/Caliban who is the monster, but when Fowles introduces Miranda’s thoughts in section two, the reader learns of Clegg’s counterpart in the form of an artist known as G.P.
As she writes and reflects in her personal diary, G.P.’s treatment of Miranda is far more heinous than Clegg’s singular act of imprisoning the middle-class art student. Clegg, albeit a monster by his own right (this can be without question), treats Miranda far better and with far more mutual respect (on the level of lover-to-lover) than G.P. does to Miranda (despite the demand of pornographic pictures Clegg makes on Miranda). Yet, Clegg discovers it is G.P. who Miranda loves at the novel’s end. And Clegg best sums it up when he thinks, ”When Miranda became the purpose of my life I should say I was at least as good as the next man, as it turned out” (p 20).
Fowles’s in his book The Aristos (1964) discusses the themes of The Collector and asserts that English society (at the time of the sixties) was diverging into two social classes of the upper-class and the middle-class. Fowles follows in the footsteps of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who argued that the ”aristoi” or the intellectually and morally elite remained superior over the ”hoi polloi” or the conforming, ignorant masses.
Through Miranda it is clear that the elitist G.P. will never come to love her, and yet it is her affection and love she gives to such a man. Likewise, a man of new wealth, Clegg fails in his demented design to sway Miranda (also the character in The Tempest whose affections are won by Ferdinand) to a life of happiness.
She reminisces on G.P. and Clegg:
”I know what I am to him. A butterfly he has always wanted to catch. I remember (the very first time I met him) G.P. saying that collectors were the worst animals of all. He meant art collectors, of course. I didn’t really understand, I thought he was just trying to shock Caroline–and me. But of course, he is right. They’re anti-life, anti-art, anti-everything” (p 116).
Fowles is able to dazzle the imagination with his expert craft of storytelling, but far below the surface of the narrative lies a social proclamation that will leave you asking and debating: who was really the monster and on what level?
The Collector is a horror thriller but it also edges its boundaries to that of a fairy tale, to the likes of those little children who come face to face with the witch deep in the woods that hides her little cottage. Fowles is a remarkable writer and thinker and it is for this reason I strongly recommend his book.
CG FEWSTON is an American novelist who is a member of AWP, a member of Americans for the Arts, and a professional member and advocate of the PEN American Center, advocating for the freedom of expression around the world.
CG FEWSTON has travelled across continents and visited such places as Mexico, the island of Guam, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, Taipei and Beitou in Taiwan, Bali in Indonesia, and Guilin and Shenzhen and Beijing in China. He also enjoys studying and learning French, Vietnamese, Cantonese and Mandarin.
CG FEWSTON earned an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership and Administration (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors) from Stony Brook University, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Fiction from Southern New Hampshire University, where he had the chance to work with wonderful and talented novelists like Richard Adams Carey (author of In the Evil Day, October 2015; and, The Philosopher Fish, 2006) and Jessica Anthony (author of Chopsticks, 2012; and, The Convalescent, 2010) as well as New York Times Best-Selling novelists Matt Bondurant (author of The Night Swimmer, 2012; and, The Wettest County in the World, 2009, made famous in the movie Lawless, 2012) and Wiley Cash (author of A Land More Kind Than Home, 2013; and, This Dark Road to Mercy, 2014).
Among many others, CG FEWSTON’S stories, photographs and essays have appeared in Sediments Literary–Arts Journal, Bohemia, Ginosko Literary Journal, GNU Journal (“Hills Like Giant Elephants”), Tendril Literary Magazine, Prachya Review (“The One Who Had It All”), Driftwood Press, The Missing Slate Literary Magazine (“Darwin Mother”), Gravel Literary Journal, Foliate Oak Magazine, The Writer’s Drawer, Moonlit Road, Nature Writing, and Travelmag: The Independent Spirit; and for several years he was a contributor to Vietnam’s national premier English newspaper, Tuoi Tre, “The Youth Newspaper.”
You can read more about CG FEWSTON and his writing at
A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN won GOLD for Literary Classics’ 2015 best book in the category under ”Special Interest” for “Gender Specific – Female Audience”…
Finalist in the 2015 Chatelaine Awards for Romantic Fiction…
Finalist in the 2015 Mystery & Mayhem Novel Writing Contest…
Praise for A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN:
“Fewston delivers an atmospheric and evocative thriller in which an American government secret agent must navigate fluid allegiances and murky principles in 1970s Tehran… A cerebral, fast-paced thriller.”
“A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN is a thrilling adventure which takes place in pre-revolutionary Tehran. Author CG FEWSTON provides a unique glimpse into this important historical city and its rich culture during a pivotal time in its storied past. This book is so much more than a love story. Skillfully paired with a suspenseful tale of espionage, A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN is a riveting study of humanity. Replete with turns & twists and a powerful finish, FEWSTON has intimately woven a tale which creates vivid pictures of the people and places in this extraordinary novel.”
CG FEWSTON‘s new novel,
A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN, was published on April 2, 2015 —
10 years to the day of the publication
of his first novella, A FATHER’S SON (April 2, 2005)
“Thus one skilled at giving rise to the extraordinary
is as boundless as Heaven and Earth,
as inexhaustible as the Yellow River and the ocean.
Ending and beginning again,
like the sun and moon. Dying and then being born,
like the four seasons.”
found in Sources of Chinese Tradition, p 5