Musing on Murdoch in General
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I've now read enough of The Time of the Angels to get back my IM feeling that I'm in a parallel universe where the inhabitants are not quite human beings, but oh so close --- Homo Murdochis, I guess. Does anybody else feel this way or am I just perhaps a little dim?
Along with this book, I'm also reading (since JANUARY) Richardson's Clarissa, and this morning I came across a rant by someone about how his book is actually a very anti-feminist text (I won't bore you with the particulars). But halfway through the rant, this literature professor had something interesting to say:
Her discussion is about whether or not people are changed by what they read: "I am very pessimistic about this. . . . I think we take from books what we bring to them. I see this day after day in the classroom."I've actually been moodling around this idea a lot lately, including wondering if I'm being fair to Murdoch's work. I wonder if I haven't fallen too much into the habit of judging a book through the prism of my own emotional reaction to it rather than evaluating what the author is trying to do. Not that the emotional reaction is irrelevant--but should it be primary? This idea would back up what the professor was saying about taking from books only what we bring to them. --Which is why I think forums like this one, or intelligent reading groups, or the like, are important to our reading.
So what do you think? Are we changed by what we read, or do we generally tend to cherry-pick the ideas, even from great books, that buttress our own opinions and life-view?
I'd like to write a brilliant defense of one's own emotional reaction being the essential element of what a good book provides. However satisfied it makes me to figure out what an author was trying to do and whether he succeeded on his own terms, in the end I evaluate a book by what it called from me. Surely if I didn't realize that whatever it was was in me or didn't know the depth before I read the book, taking from the book what I bring to it can't be a bad thing.
At this point I don't know what I'm arguing, so I'll stop.
I do know that I won't take much from The Time of the Angels. I lack about 20 pages of finishing - which I'm about to do - and while she writes a lot about the possibility and nature of The Good, it's all pretty much noise in my mind partly because the guy doing the philosophizing is such a Murdochian Monster.
My goodness, good for you for finishing. I'm still only about 3/4 through.
The deeper mystery, perhaps, is how minds are expanded and changed - all at once, little by little? I would say that people in crisis of any kind are open to all kinds of revelations which books can provide, from discovering that a genre previously scorned, provides a welcome refuge, to learning about some spiritual practice you knew nothing of that leads to an alteration in world view. Art does have an effect on some, not all, of course. And so on. History books have shifted my views, certainly, especially when I've read several around one topic and begin to formulate a more layered view of some event or person.
Reading has caused me, I know, to not be so sure about many things - Murdoch is a perfect choice for this discussion - the character I'm dealing with is both awful and also wonderful, in equal measure, really. I have no doubt that he is a person of enormous intellect and accomplishments who would awe me if I met him, so it's rather amazing to be inside his head and find out what a mess he is, but I do 'believe' it. And that changes how I look at other people.....
Homo Murdochis is an hilarious idea, Peggy!
I did post a sort-of review of The Time of the Angels on the book page which you are welcome to look at if you feel like it. I guess it has to rank as my least favorite so far, but I need to reread everything I read 20 and 30 years ago. Happy 2013!
You gotta love it.
Having said that, I went to a wonderful presentation about the animals in JD, particularly the horse, at the last IM Society Conference, and that did redeem it a bit for me ...
I don't remember anything at all like that in her other books.
Peggy - remember too that there is a thread for The Philosopher's Pupil all made up for you!
Edited to ask: If one desired to get one book to help with the reading and understanding of Iris Murdoch, her philosophy, her meanings, what would any of you advise please? I am looking at Iris Murdoch for Beginners but though it has a 5 star rating here on L.T. only 16 members have it and there are no reviews. The only username I recognized was labwriter. Anybody here with a suggestion or two? I would like to have a better and more serious grasp of I.M. as I read her works. Thank you.
Thanks for the list of suggestions Liz.
I think I would go for Iris Murdoch A Life.
edited to say:
Excellent review. Sadly and strangely enough I saw so much of myself in that review & thusly I was gladdened by that last sentence. Thumb up young lady. Thank you.
Liz, thank you so much for inviting me over to this group. I have already gained so much from my experience here.
Has anyone read The Sacred and Profane Love Machine? (LB, obviously you have.) This book is discussed in a 1970s chapter in On Rereading by Patricia Meyer Spacks. I haven't read the chapter yet--I was just skimming to see what book she decided on for the 1970s chapter, and this was the one.
>61 labwriter:--labwriter, The Sacred and Profane Love Machine was my third IM and the one that made me a real fan. Hope you enjoy/enjoyed/are enjoying it.
A Fairly Honorable Defeat
Under the Net
A Word Child
The Sacred and Profane Love Machine
The Message to the Planet
Nuns and Soldiers
An Accidental Man
The Flight From the Enchanter
Henry and Cato
Feel free to weigh in if you have read any of these and especially loved them - I am debating keeping going in 2014.....
An Unofficial Rose Iris Murdoch (A lovely Chatto and Windus 1st ed)
The Message to the Planet Iris Murdoch
The Time of the Angels Iris Murdoch
The Italian Girl Iris Murdoch
The Red and the Green Iris Murdoch
The Unicorn Iris Murdoch
A Fairly Honourable Defeat Iris Murdoch
Most of these are fine Viking first editions - all with intact covers. The only pbk is The Unicorn.
I've crossed out these ones on my 'do not have' yet list above. It appears I may have a third IM year ahead of me as there are seven more after that!
I'm thinking likely An Unofficial Rose as it is an early one.
And, of course, students could change in all sorts of ways -- so does the professor have a goal in mind?
A few years back I read all the Iris Murdoch books I could find. I loved her and agree that she created a world -- that was unique.