The Green Knight

SnakIris Murdoch readers

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The Green Knight

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Redigeret: apr 6, 2014, 12:02 pm

This will be my February Murdoch for the simple reason that I already have it - I'm desperate to clear out my tbr shelves a bit before buying more books.

Make that my April Murdoch!

jan 8, 2013, 12:22 pm

OOoh you're in for a treat! That's one of my favourites!

jan 8, 2013, 1:47 pm

I'm looking forward to it - especially as it is a very fine hardcover with lovely print.

apr 6, 2014, 11:46 am

I sometimes think Murdoch lived in Cloud Cuckoo land: would three teenage girls – no matter how well educated – spend an evening in a TV-less room playing the piano and reading Milton aloud?

apr 6, 2014, 12:02 pm

I don't think she was. I hope I don't sound precious or whatever if I say I was like that. Even now there are, believe it or not, kids who are like that. Back in Iris's day I imagine there were plenty of kids who played outside all day and never read anything or cared about music. Now, I suppose, those kids watch TV since no one is allowed to run around outside unsupervised anymore - I expect that's the real problem. My daughter is the type who memorizes poems, plays elaborate role-play games and plays a musical instrument because she likes to. She also likes being outside when it isn't -5 F which it was a lot this winter..... Anyhow, they still exist.

BTW I didn't read this in February, can't remember why, but perhaps it should be my April Murdoch!

apr 11, 2014, 2:49 pm

I think Murdoch's idea of utopia was a world of academics chasing a mystical dream. She never realised that intellect and mysticism are mutually exclusive ...

Redigeret: apr 15, 2014, 10:36 am

Um, I think it would be more apt to say she explored the human need for both states, contradictory as they may appear to be, both seem essential to humans.

apr 15, 2014, 10:39 am

So I've made a beginning, reaching page 50. In some ways it is the usual offering, some older folks who should know better, some 'good' and others who 'struggle' against their impulses mostly, and a few who don't. The young ones, still innocent, bear hints of which sort of adults they will become, and one knows that the plot will be mainly focussed on watching this happen and that one or more of the adults will precipitate that shift most likely. What is utterly amazing to me is how Iris makes it fresh and interesting in each new iteration, characters who echo those from other books, but are never quite the same.

apr 16, 2014, 11:33 am

How's your suspension of disbelief doing?

Redigeret: apr 17, 2014, 4:03 pm

Do you have trouble with One Hundred Years of Solitude? With Cloud Atlas? With everything by either Italo Calvino or Jorge Luis Borges or Graham Greene? (And that is the tip of the iceberg, when I think about it, there are precious few novelists who can avoid the numinous entirely.) What is it that sets Murdoch apart for you? Have you looked into Murdoch's academic background in philosophy? She was deeply interested in what 'good' and 'evil' are - pretty much all of her books take that topic on with a variety of characters and situations.

You are aware of the Fitzgerald quote: ""The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."

Substitute 'read' for 'function'. As I said, it isn't about suspension of disbelief for me, it is about accepting, as is the case in most of the more complex novels, that human beings operate simultaneously on 'different levels.' and the novelist tries to get at the mystery of human existence in various ways. Most Murdoch books (I've read 11 or so now) have some hint of mystery, numinousness, or the occult however you want to express it, but on a scale of one to ten I would place Murdoch as about a 6 in terms of any requirement that I suspend disbelief. Those I mentioned above.... much much higher. This novel, does not strike me as particularly different from a great many others I have read.

Redigeret: maj 2, 2014, 7:31 pm

On to the book itself...... the first big 'revelation' has occurred - that is, and don't read on if you don't want to know, the real truth about the accidental 'murder' committed by Lucas Graffe which caused him to disappear for a time - emerges. A rather nasty truth for his brother Clement to learn about. Who is, of course, a very nice person, being named Clement..... He's just left Lucas's house where I've left off. The theme of the book however is now very explicit - 'the end of innocence' - and an examination, most likely, of the 'good' and 'bad' aspects of both the state of innocence and the state of, for lack of a better word, knowledge (not always wisdom - that comes with yet another more profound state which some of her characters do sometimes exhibit)..... point being, people can be innocently innocent or wilfully innocent - which is not so innocent - and so on and so forth (Clement being an example of the latter - he should have known better as an adult how much his brother hated him. )
The three young girls and Harvey as the former are examples of true innocence. Murdoch usually tosses in some inscrutable character who can turn out to be bad even evil, or ... as was true of the main character in The Sea The Sea muddleheaded to the nth degree so that they enable evil to enter in. Lucas is going to be surprising I think.

apr 18, 2014, 5:48 am

I'll be interested in your findings when you read 'The Unconsoled' by Ishiguro...

maj 2, 2014, 7:37 pm

This is just one big spoiler! I'm truly creeping along, not because I don't enjoy it when I do read the book, but because I am distracted by work and am gravitating to lighter fare generally. However, Peter Mir has turned up, not dead at all and actually rather angry, as the blow he took to his head has ended his career as a psychoanalyst. Money isn't the issue. He wants revenge on Lucas. The dog who belongs to Bellamy, a friend who wishes to enter a monastery for all the wrong reasons, and has been parked at the house of the girls and is looked after by Moy the youngest, runs off during a commotion at the front door and everyone goes mad and they all take off. Mir, however, who had insisted earlier on meeting them all in this awkward and formal manner where he had intended to humiliate Lucas (who was a no show) is the one who inadvertently finds Anax and brings him home, thus assuring himself a spot in the heart of the Andersons...... Lucas continues to be furious with Clement for botching up everything although he no longer has any murderous feelings toward him.... and so the plot thickens. Mir is obviously going to insinuate himself into the fabric of the family and wreak havoc, whether for good or for ill, will remain to be seen..... I'm guessing for good.

maj 7, 2014, 9:46 am

Still creeping along - I have a feeling that the 'shift' that is a feature of Murdoch novels, where characters (depending on your p-de-v) either change or become more themselves - or just suddenly up and do 'unexpected' things that move the plot along, such as it is..... the latest proposal is to go to the 'scene of the crime' and do a re-enactment.....

Redigeret: aug 22, 2015, 9:42 am

Here is my review:

After a year and some ten or so novels of IM's ouevre, certain patterns, themes, plot twists, settings have, by now, come to be expected and indeed cherished. A close knit group of people are disturbed, usually by the intrusion of a new person, but sometimes by a violent event (in this case both), and during the upheaval, people 'act out of character' - (or is it more IN character?), secrets are revealed (or not revealed but guessed at), the numinous is hinted at, the ending is usually satisfactory as in the comedic meaning of the word where the right people usually end up together and those who die, must die. Dogs and cats if missing, are found. Most of the action takes place indoors with the exception of wild country settings which are almost always close to the sea (although not always). The houses in which the stories take place are always interesting and always meticulously described with Nabokovian particularity and these houses and flats, grand or grubby, have characters of their own which influence outcomes too. Murdoch also always stops to tell you what people are wearing (always so much nicer than anything I ever wear, even in this novel which dates from the early 90's just before her Alzheimer's began incapacitating her). Everything matters, everything in the universe is slightly animate, not just the obviously living: dogs, people, spiders, and plants, but the things we consider inanimate: cars, houses, rocks, even walking canes. And everything lives in relation to everything else and the longer they have rubbed together the more connected they are if for no other reason than proximity. This novel features an attempted fratricide, the intervention of a man who returns from the dead, three young women on the verge of adulthood, their mother who is a widow, a young man who has badly broken his foot and feels his life is ruined..... they are all related or part of a social group that has more or less simply happened and, in the nature of things, become connected through simply hanging about together so long. This novel, I think considered the last fully coherent one, has an odd edge to it, and I wonder if Iris was feeling the slippage.... there is no bitterness, only a feeling of impending loss, hard to explain, perhaps it is embedded in the imagery of the title The Green Knight a valiant young man meeting his inevitable destiny with bravery. Oh Iris, you were wise and strange and wonderful! I am greatly enjoying reading your work and thank you for it. ****

maj 30, 2014, 9:39 am

I've still to read my first Murdoch novel, or book for that matter, first attracted to her philosophical interests and lately perhaps more by her infusion of same into fiction. I love the account rendered in >15 sibylline:, it cements my intention of reading one or more. Would you recommend any work to begin? Ideally, if you have read both her fiction and philosophy, a recommended title from each category.

(I welcome recommendations from anyone in this thread, but sibyx indicates a nice breadth of reading which prompted the request.)

maj 30, 2014, 12:08 pm

Thanks for stopping by. The real expert around here is the founder and admin of this group - LyzzyBee, but I'll do what I can. Probably reading through my reviews would tell you most of what you need to know, as in, which ones I have especially liked. I have not read any of Murdoch's philosophy or the long bio - only the short memoir/portrait by her husband. Probably I will read the bio at some point as I have it.

What I have found is that Murdoch more or less writes the same novel over and over in lighter and darker shades....always examining the ways good and evil manifest in lives lived. She also uses the same motifs: a special and fondly described house or houses mostly in either seaside or London locales, but not always. Swimming, rocks, significant pets and children .... letter-writing.... Most novels are never quite fully tragic or fully comical, but they vary widely in mood. The darker ones can be very uncomfortable reading indeed. I would characterize The Sea, the Sea as falling into that category as well as The Black Prince. Others are almost lighthearded - The Sandcastle for example. The rest fall in between. There are the manipulators and the manipulated..... the naive and the canny, the wise and the fools..... and so on.

The two that have been the most 'fun' to read (just my own taste here) were The Good Apprentice and The Sandcastle. The Bell my second read, was also very compelling to me. I rather loathed The Sea, the Sea.

maj 30, 2014, 12:43 pm

I think I've read your various reviews, or at least several of them, but sporadically as I happened across them or they surfaced in my Reviews module. A good idea to review them at one go!

So interesting, your reaction to The Sea, the Sea -- simply because it's probably the title I hear / read about most frequently, and it might be implied to be a good one to start with. But I'd rather not my first taste be one of loathing.

maj 30, 2014, 1:38 pm

The main character just has one cringing the entire time, he's such a pompous ass, but then.... classic Murdoch, she turns the tables so you do 'feel' for him to some degree in his innocent depravity by the end. Others of her novels have far more attractive protagonists.... I stuck it out and I don't regret it one bit. I think I might even enjoy it more now knowing what Murdoch is up to a bit better.

maj 31, 2014, 12:09 pm

The Sea, The Sea is a classic one to start with, it won the Booker so is the one many people do start with. I really like recommending The Flight from the Enchanter or The Bell as first ones, or maybe The Nice and the Good ... have fun, though!