Dette emne er markeret som "i hvile"—det seneste indlæg er mere end 90 dage gammel. Du kan vække emnet til live ved at poste et indlæg.
This is Iris in 1978. In stills I've seen of Judi Dench playing the older Iris, you almost can't tell the two women apart.
I'll do my best here to avoid spoilers.
I had some extra reading time, so I'm well into The Black Prince. I admire authors who can creditably write in the first person of the opposite sex. The protagonist and narrator for this one is Bradley Pearson (who hates to be called Brad, by the way), a divorced retired tax inspector who prides himself on being a serious writer, however has only three minor publications to his name.
The cast of characters that surrounds Bradley might all be inmates in a lunatic asylum. There's Arnold Baffin, friend of Bradley and younger, popularly successful writer who writes too much and is too easily praised, according to his daughter; Rachel, Arnold's wife ("more about her later" which is a device Bradley uses often throughout the narrative); Julian, their 20-something disappointing daughter; Bradley's younger sister, Priscilla, who may or may not be divorcing her husband; Christian, Bradley's former wife who has returned to London after living in Illinois and comes home with an "American twang"; and Christian's brother, Francis Marloe, a bothersome hanger-on.
I find myself laughing out loud at the oddest places, having no idea whether or not Murdoch is meaning to be funny. Bradley writes letters to several of these people, hoping to use the letters as shields or barriers that will keep them either out of his life or under control.
An example--To his ex-wife, addressed as "Dear Mrs. Evandale": "I would appreciate it if you would take this letter as saying exactly what it appears to say and nothing else. There is nothing of a cordial or forward-looking import to be read 'between the lines.' My act of writing to you does not betoken excitement or interest. As my wife you were unpleasant to me, cruel to me, destructive to me. I do not think that I speak too strongly. I was profoundly relieved to be free of you and I do not like you. Or rather I do not like the memory of you. I scarcely even now conceive of you as existing except as a nastiness conjured up by your brother. This miasma will soon pass and be replaced by the previous state of oblivion. I trust you will not interfere with this process by any manifestation. I should, to be finally frank, be thoroughly angered by any 'approach' on your part, and I am sure that you would wish to avoid a distressing scene. I derive consolation from the thought that since your memories of me are doubtless just as disagreeable as my memories of you, you are unlikely to desire a meeting."
I do not think that I speak too strongly.--Ha. Then after sending the letter, Bradley decides that the letter itself will probably have the opposite effect of what he desired--to excite her into creating a distressing scene--so to hold her off from "coming round in a taxi," he goes to see her. When he gets to the house, Christian is described as someone I can only imagine as looking and acting a great deal like Anna Wintour. Screaming.
The man is laughable and ludicrous, and I can't say that at 112/366 I have him or any of the others figured out yet. This might be one of those books that needs a double reading.
I do occasionally find myself laughing out loud while reading this book--snorting at the characters. I assume Murdoch means for us to snort at them.
One of my issues with this book is that, to me at least, as someone who lived through the early 1970s and isn't particularly eager to go back there again, the book seems quite dated. It was published in 1973 and has some of the same sort of nervy, chaotic feel to it as John Updike's Rabbit Redux, published in 1971, and also deals with some of the same themes--guilt, sex, and death. Casual infidelity was something of a hallmark of the early 1970s; if you've ever seen the movie Bob & Ted & Carol & Alice (1969), sometimes The Black Prince has that sort of feel to it. I'm sure to be flamed for the comparison--ha.
None of what I've said here makes this a bad book, especially for readers who aren't old enough to remember the late 1960s and early 1970s. I guess I'm also having something of a visceral reaction to the two 50-something men ending up with the too-young 20-something women, since I was a 20-something back in the early 70's. Too much "ick-factor" going on for me, I think. The older men with their big plaids and white shoes with matching white belts and blow-dried hair--remember? Ick.
The next morning--it was another sunny day--I woke early to an exact perception of my state; yet knowing too that something had changed. I was not quite what I had been the day before. . . . I certainly felt very happy, with that curious sense of the face as waxen, dissolving into bliss, the eyes swimming with it. Desire, still cosmic, was perhaps more like physical pain, like something one could die of quite privately in a corner.Do we hear the acid rock playing in the background--maybe Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast?
I got up and shaved and dressed with care and looked at my new face in the mirror. I looked so young it was almost uncanny. Then I drank a little tea and went to sit in the sitting-room. . . . I sat as still as a Buddhist and experienced myself.Snort.
Nah, no flaming. And I was allowed to present a paper at the IM Society Conference this year. Most of her books have that feature!
Oh, would love to hear more about that--what was your paper about? Some years ago I was involved with a group that studies and writes about Willa Cather. I loved my time with that group, and had a lot of fun going to the conferences. If anyone has an author they absolutely adore, then find the society that studies them and plan to attend a conference. You will never be sorry!
You've given me an idea--maybe I should start a Cather group?
The Sea, the Sea is also first person, male - Charles is also quite insufferable..... I know exactly what you mean that you could put it down, but that you know from experience that sometimes with books like this it is LATER that the experience of reading it keeps resonating and having an effect .
I'm starting to wonder: does IM dislike men? because she makes most of them out to be fools. I mean, I don't know any men like Bradley or Arthur--thank God. The only one I like in this book is Francis.
Maybe I'm just too dense to get what she's doing here, but this relationship between Bradley Pearson and Julian seems to me to be nothing but silly infatuation--certainly not love. What am I missing?
We might be coming to a turn in the plot here--I hope so. Obviously, the Bradley/Julian thing has no future. It's one of those relationships that can only exist in a liminal time, during a period when "real life" is held at bay for awhile, for one reason or another.
It's amazing that Murdoch can make a compelling read out of a story with so many unlikeable people. I never did come to like the narrator, Bradley Pearson. I was reading some reviews of the book on another website, and was struck by one written by a young reader:
I was reading the book the way I watch movies like Bridesmaids--I kept wanting to cover my eyes and wait till the characters had finished embarrassing themselves, only he never did.I felt pretty much the same way about old Brad--come off it man, can't you see what a ridiculous fool you're making of yourself? I never could take anything he had to say about "love" seriously, and since one of IM's major themes is about love, I guess that part of it didn't work very well for me.
The thing I did like was the book's implicit question: "What is truth?" Is Bradley Pearson an unreliable narrator? Do we take as the "true" account of what happened to these people the postscripts written by the other characters at the end of the book? Is the editor's account the true one? Well, reader, did he kill the guy or didn't he?
I would add this about the book, and of course my point of view is based only on this one book, since it's the only IM I've read so far: Murdoch's apparent view of the world (again, only judging from this book) is one that I don't have very much sympathetic understanding for. Her exploration of and conclusions about marriage, divorce, infidelity, women of a "certain age" don't ring true to me because evidently our life experiences are so completely at odds. Are 50-something first wives really so freakish and absurd?
Overall, I'm glad I read the book and I look forward to reading more IM.
She does indeed muse a great deal on what is truth in this one, also there's all the Hamlet stuff, the delightfully Freudian PO Tower ...
But would it make you feel better if I said that in my reading group, I love it but was reading it for the 3rd time, one liked it, one tolerated it, one hated it first time, loved it second time, and one threw it across the room!
>26 sibylline:: good point, Lucy!
--Even though in #3 I wrote that I would do my best to avoid spoilers. I didn't do a very good job, since it's very hard to make comments about a book and not refer to the characters/plot.
Ole Brad has just connected with Julian, which gives you some idea how 'far' (not) I've gotten.
I am so out of it where Murdoch is concerned. Her books just don't appeal to me. Patricia Myer Spacks has made The Sacred and Profane Love Machine the central discussion for her 1970s chapter in her book On Rereading. She says her favorite authors in the 1970s were Murdoch and Muriel Spark (Loitering with Intent, etc.).
The way she describes this book, Lucy, if you like BP then you will love S&PLM.
The psychoanalyst who pursues his profession by instinct rather than by training; the saintly wife; the sordid mistress; the man of unfulfilled homosexual impulse; a man grieving for his dead wife--whom he killed; the beautiful adolescent girl eager to lose her virginity; a grown-up woman of ambiguous sexual inclinations; a troubled young man; an eight-year-old boy who wants to be a gangster. Add in an astute narrator who does not appear to identify with any of the characters. The plot, Spacks says, defies summary, "because of the sheer multiplicity of events."Why it is I can love, love, love the books (most of them) by John Irving, yet I can't get into these by Murdoch, I really can't say. Maybe it's because I honestly can't figure out when she's meaning to be humorous or ironic or whatever. I simply miss her cues or something.
Here's Spacks again: The book brims with irony. "We are left with the question of how we should react to the perception behind such representation. Murdoch's narrator offers a clue, suggesting that 'an author's irony often conceals his glee. This concealment is possibly the chief function of irony.' Perhaps the reader is to share the author's glee at the intricacy and diversity of human idiosyncrasy and self-deception? Certainly glee--a kind of wild and wondering pleasure--is one of the emotions I felt in this reading."
You sound like one of those readers, Lucy, who read Murdoch with glee. I wish I could join you.
I'm fascinated, B., by what works and doesn't work for readers. That would be a brilliant area for pyschological study and inquiry, methinks. I have friends (not many, I admit - let's say - there are people in my orbit) who ONLY read very serious books.... There are quite a few of them here on LT in fact on some of the seriouser groups...... In my case, I feel that somewhere along the way (out of self defense???) I 'learned' to read at different levels - for a book like tBP I feel that I emotionally detach from it, step back just enough not to be pained by the suffering of these people, or -- at the very least -- not by the ones I don't care for at all (which in this one is nobody so far) - as if I'm reading a 'case study' about some lunatic! I do this because with some writers I trust that they have genuine wisdom to impart about the human condition - say - Dostoyevsky or Kafka or even Flaubert (whom I detest, basically, except, man, can he write!). Even if I loathe or am depressed and disturbed by the philosophy or the direction the themes go in, I feel that it is worth 'knowing' what the author is about. IM strikes me as most unusual for a woman writer in that she often places her thematic content above the 'human' factor; the characters are there to 'show' something. She gleefully (yes!) does this ruthlessly. I couldn't, which is why I never will amount to a hill of beans as a writer, I expect. Muriel Spark is similar. I've attributed some of her ruthlessness to Catholicism - Spark is very very concerned with the issues of sin and redemption, not unlike Greene, except Greene is so..... delicate and subtle by comparison! And so funny in the right places. Sinning is taken for granted - and, as with Murdoch, it's what you do after that matters, how you explain it. But Murdoch doesn't allow her characters the comfort of grace, which Spark ultimately does, I think. All very interesting.
Poor Bradley only wants to get away to write....... or does he? Iris is a sly one.
Back to add - overall though, I'm not totally sure that Spacks is doing IM justice with the glee bit - yes - I think under the glee is another layer that is very very serious indeed. Stopping at glee risks being dismissive of her aims.
On Rereading, Patricia Myer Spacks, 2011, Belknap Press of Harvard UP, Cambridge, MA and London.
OK, I’ve been moodling this around in my head for a couple of days--your comments in response to my post about liking or caring about a character being something of a necessity for me--and I think I've probably misunderstood the gist of your argument. Perhaps you took my comments about not liking IM somewhat personally (was it the “yawn”?), and I have quite possibly done the same about yours. I'll just say that I’m not really sure how the issue of your orbit (I first read that as "obit"--ha) of very serious friends ONLY reading their very serious books in their very serious LT groups is germane to the discussion, except that I guess you wanted to associate yourself as a very serious reader, as you go on to say, that “somewhere along the way . . . I ‘learned’ to read at different levels.” I would simply ask, doesn’t everyone?—read at different levels, I mean? Or at least those do who think of themselves as serious readers, although I would call myself a “passionate” reader rather than serious, in that I passionately love to read—the “very serious” bit has to my ear something of a blue blood or elitist or a bit of a snobbish connotation to it. Serious reading meaning what, exactly? Difficult? Earnest? Sincere? Important? Weighty? Profound? Educated? What’s the opposite of serious, anyway—Unimportant? Frivolous? Trivial? Superficial? Airheaded? Fluff? Uneducated? Oh, guilty as charged, then. I do read frivolously, at times. Maybe more than I should, but Lord knows there are days when fluff is exactly what I need. And bless their hearts, those friends of yours, who ONLY need serious reading to get through the day! What lives they must lead!
As for your last paragraph—what a wonderful comparison/contrast of those three writers. You are hugely more deeply read than I will ever be in contemporary British writers. I confess to being too deeply bonded with my American identity to find pleasure in spending all that much time with them--contemporary British writers, that is, just to be clear. I would rather spend my time rereading Faulkner (now there's a sunny guy for you!). However, I'll make a promise that one of these days I’ll get around to reading Brighton Rock (1938)—a novel that I've been assured is filled with sordid and unattractive people. I’ll report back.
- I have friends (not many, I admit - let's say - there are people in my orbit) who ONLY read very serious books.... There are quite a few of them here on LT in fact on some of the seriouser groups......
The word 'orbit' is meant to make clear I am not one of those people. I just know some - in fact - they puzzle me. I neither admire nor think less of them for reading what they do. I know I couldn't stand it, that I would die of boredom and sadness. In fact, I wonder sometimes why I am this way - somewhat relentlessly scornful of over-intellectualization and worry it is because I am missing something, that I'm a lightweight. Then I get mad about that, because that is a stupid way to think, I'm pretty sure. I do not, in any case, associate myself with serious readers. I would classify my reading habits as eclectic and uncategorizable. There just aren't so many people out there happy reading either Thomas Pynchon or Georgette Heyer. Or Iris Murdoch and Isaac Asimov. I know there aren't and I know, at this stage of my life, that I am unusual as a reader. LT is the closest I've ever come to finding a few readers who read in the indiscriminate way I do. It's not bragging, it's fact.
In my case, I feel that somewhere along the way (out of self defense???) I 'learned' to read at different levels - for a book like tBP I feel that I emotionally detach from it, step back just enough not to be pained by the suffering of these people, or -- at the very least -- not by the ones I don't care for at all (which in this one is nobody so far) - as if I'm reading a 'case study' about some lunatic!
I am indeed very well-educated, partly by choice, and partly because given my background that was what was 'expected' and I never questioned it. I think at first I started reading that way as a form of self-preservation and quite resentfully, but then I came to see that there were other rewards. I don't think that is elitist - it's more like, practicing music makes you a better at playing but also at understanding what you play. Unexpected rewards.
No, I don't think all that many people do learn to read at different levels for different things. I don't think very many people read passionately as you and I do - most people if they read at all want to be entertained and don't want to work. It's very hard to learn, say, to like Shakespeare or read a poem. It's hard to learn to read James, Woolf, Kafka, Kleist, Proust. It's harder to read the best genre writers as well.
Here is how I would define a couple of types of reading - and neither are 'opposites'. I avoid using opposites - educated or uneducated for example - they tend to create a false either/or where none exists. What follows pertains mainly to fiction, btw. Non-fiction is another ball of wax.
Serious, literary: Striving for 'new' and 'unsaid' - structurally and verbally. Seeking unexpressed truths. Showing hard and painful subject matter. Wildly original. Scary. Disturbing. Life-changing. Insanely beautiful. Moving. Many novels that do fit in this category have things in common with genre writing - strong characterizations, plots etc. and yet they transcend all that eventually. Those are just tools, enticements.
Genre (eg. meant to be read 'for fun'- romance, mystery, sf, fantasy ) Pattern-based, archetypal, satisfying structure, surprising within a safe context, can be wonderfully fresh and original in competent hands. Strong characterizations are a MUST. Plot also. Something in us loves and feels reassured by reading stories that we know, already how they will end, mystery solved, hero triumphant, happy couple, whatever.
Some writers can be hard to place and do straddle both types, but that can be avoided by saying that there are writers in the genre field who are brilliant and move the genre in new directions - though I would argue always within certain parameters.)
So where, to keep this relevant, would I place IM? One interesting thing about her is that she uses some genre strategems. Her novels all have a similar 'shape' even, working towards some calamity. I would place her tentatively in the first group, with the caveat that, I am guessing, she herself was an iconoclast and didn't like the idea of being classified as 'too literary' - she does want her readers to have fun but also come away thoughtful. While her books don't have 'happy' endings per se, people do seem to come away having gotten more or less what they deserved.....
Hope this helps.
I am terrifyingly well read, and the fact is, at nearly 60, I'm not going to pretend I'm not, if that makes me elitist, so be it. My reading is mostly, like your own, passion-based reading, curiosity, a weird addiction to language (may relate to my interest in music?) and so on. But you should give yourself more credit - and I am aware that you are terrifyingly well read in some areas that I either avoid or am interested but lazy about. (mostly in the non-fiction realm).
This is way too long, many apologies.
Seriously, do you not use antonyms to tease out the meaning of a word? Is that not a valid way to understand what something is--to also make an effort to say what it is not?
I avoid using opposites - educated or uneducated for example - they tend to create a false either/or where none exists.
I see that I erred when I used the word opposite to describe the paired words I was using to understand what your friends might mean by "serious" reading. That was careless of me--I was actually using antonyms. Opposites (educated/uneducated, since that's the one you picked out) imply incompatibility or a binary relationship (like off/on), whereas antonyms can be graded (like on a fat/skinny continuum); they can be complementary (like inhale/exhale); they can also be relational (like predator/prey).
So while the opposites of educated/uneducated certainly do exist (just ask someone like me who paid off school loans for 20 years), they should not be put in a category of either/or, as you correctly suggest.
To end on a laugh--the orbit/obit thing was just sort of funny. Being a SF reader, you obviously have a rich connotation with the word orbit that I don't have. And being someone who enjoys genealogy, that common abbreviation of "obituary" was what came immediately to my mind.
Apropos to IM?--pretty much not. Oh well. All I can say, Sib, is that I value your "terrifyingly" well-read self so much, and I feel that the day I met you here on LT was one of the blessings of my life.
All that said - many antonyms are oppositional as I think of them, others are more shaded, and a few are unavoidable. But I can never answer Yes or No questions. I can't do it. I can (almost?) always think of an exception. It's made for some difficulties in my life, believe me. I am not being flippant and it occurs to me that may well be at the core of what you find interesting about me.
What about dawn? What about twilight? What about when your battery is failing in your flashlight?
If you can see better in the dark than the light, is dark still dark? Light still light?
What about being in transit? What about being on the way up or the way down? What about being ambivalent?
In/Out. What about cats? What about being stuck? What about being 'in' because you are so far 'out'?
I found myself frequently imagining what Tom and Daisy and Jordan (is there an echo in that name choice?) would have said about what happened to Gatsby and why if Nick had 'invited' them to write postscripts. Gatsby is the the 'biggest name' 'unreliable narrator' book I know of.... it was a very persistent idea, but did it come out of nowhere or was I meant to have it?