Books: One Man's Volcano

SELECTED LETTERS OF MALCOLM LOWRY edited by Harvey Breit and Mar-gene Bonner Lowry. 459 pages. Lippincott. $10.

The geography of Dante's inferno was fixed. As a 14th century Florentine, he knew it was somewhere under Tuscany. For Malcolm Lowry, a 20th century mystic, it lay under the volcano that looks down on Cuernavaca in Mexico and inside a bottle of mescal, a drink as hallucinatory, it seems, as mescaline, a drug which is also derived from the maguey cactus.

At 47, Lowry died of drink (which the coroner called "misadventure") in his native...

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