I went into reading The Magus after hearing rave reviews about it from my brother, my sister and the man I had coffee with last week. My sister mentioned that it was a bit avant garde and that our other sister might have not liked it for that, but I do enjoy Tom Robbins’ books, so avant garde is hardly a problem for me. The blurbs on the back of the book and inside the front cover emphasize how risque and thrilling The Magus is, and I had pretty high hopes by the time my eyes scanned the first page.
Well, to make a long story short, The Magus was not particularly risque, and by page 400 there was still so little action or ‘thrilling’ development, of plot, characters or anything else that I was dozing off trying to read this ‘exciting’ modern classic novel. Sinclair Lewis’ Arrowsmith and Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge (bothe great books) had a lot more sex than the Magus, and were a lot more blatantly (and tastefully) sexy. They also accomplished more character development and better plot development, in far fewer pages. Granted, the Magus has many characters whose true names remain uncertainly known till the very end of the book, and they harbor many secrets, but it would have been a far more effective shock to reveal that Rose and Lily are/are not June and Julie if they were really convincingly fleshed out first in their pseudonymic roles. The majority of the ‘mysterious’ characters in this book feel flat and false from the very beginning, and the only true mystery is why the protagonist bothers with them at all. Surely he is not so dumb as to fall in love with such a cardboard-cutout of a woman.
I won’t go on ranting about this one in any more detail, since I would hate to ruin whatever thrills the secrets hold for future readers of this book, but if you are on the fence about reading it, maybe you’d rather try one of these books instead.
Sinclair Lewis, Arrowsmith
Somerset Maugham, The Razor’s Edge
Kobo Abe, The Woman in the Dunes
Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume