Monday, April 03, 2006

Iris Murdoch

Why did I not discover Iris Murdoch until the age of thirty-seven? Iris Murdoch is the bomb! (Stop wincing. This site is titled “Fatuous Observations,” is it not?) Nancy Pearl, in Booklust, categorizes all of Iris Murdoch's novels as “Books I wish I had not read yet so I could have the joy of reading them for the first time.” I see what she means. You sink into an Iris Murdoch novel the same way you sink into a comfortable armchair.

I started with The Bell, a gently funny novel about a group of eccentrics living in a lay religious community. Then I read The Sandcastle, which is probably not considered her best, but I enjoyed it, and since my copy was a library bound edition with no blurb or any indication whatsoever of what the book was about, reading it was like a voyage of discovery. I like going into books blind like that, and I learned long ago that a book's plot or subject matter has absolutely nothing to do with whether it is a good book or not. Yesterday I went to Alderman and successfully scored Murdoch's first novel, Under the Net, which is not available at the public library.

One of my all-time favorite authors is Barbara Pym, and Murdoch's writing reminds me a little bit of Pym's. I think it's safe to assume that Barbara Pym read Iris Murdoch,--they were contemporaries, more or less-- but I wonder if Murdoch read Pym?

And no, I haven't seen the movie about her—the one with Kate Winslet as the young Iris, but I did rent Antonia and Jane from Sneak Reviews, specifically because a friend told me that it has a character who can only perform sexually when Iris Murdoch novels are read aloud to him. It's a good movie, with the fabulous Imelda Staunton in the role of “Jane.”

Speaking of Alderman Library, I also picked up Flight from the Enchanter—Iris Murdoch's second novel, as well as A Beautiful Visit by Elizabeth Jane Howard, and Creed or Chaos by Dorothy Sayers and Unpopular Opinions, also by Sayers. These last two titles I had scribbled on a grocery list that has been in my purse for nearly two years and I checked them out so that I could finally throw away that grocery list. Both books are collections of essays, and I feel a future entry coming out of Sayer's essay, “Are Women Human?” (Don't worry, they are.)


  1. yes! My fave IM books are A Severed Head and The Green Knight...and I have to say one of the things I like most about her is the use of symbolism and myth- but it's all messy, you can't just easily 'figure it all out.' I've seen a lot of people rag on her for being too Platonic and silly, but I like her a lot and am glad to see someone else does, too. My fave writer in the world, AS Byatt, read IM, and is even more amazing! BTW, the movie Iris is overrated. If you're linking authors, I'd also throw in Doris Lessing. Have never heard of Pym but will check her out now!

  2. PS -- I like your blog title and moniker! Go Fatuousness!