Books: Spidery Spirit

THE MAGUS by John Fowles. 582 pages. Little, Brown. $7.95.

The art of John Fowles is arachnid. In The Collector, his brilliant first novel, the central character is a spidery psychopath who ensnares a pretty girl and plays with her as a child plays with a doll, not consciously meaning any harm, until the poor thing falls apart. In his second novel, Fowles repeats his pattern but not his success.

The Collector succeeded because Fowles limited his principal personae to one spider and one fly. The Magus fails because he spins a flimsy, far-flung net of narrative and then gets all tangled...

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