Iris Murdoch is not a writer for everyone. She has a mordant sense of humor bordering on wicked. Her writing is filled with a litany of ironies which in a first person novel can be unsettling. What disturbs some readers is her portrayal of characters - usually male - who are filled with an almost epic self loathing. What other writer would have a character reveal his inner demons through the mechanism of describing a bad LSD trip (taken to please a woman) - involving an experience concerning entrails - as shameful, morally and spiritually horrible, and then equate that chemically induced vision with the universe.
Murdoch studied philosophy at Cambridge and was made Fellow and tutor in philosophy at St. Anne's College, Oxford. Her first published book (1953) was Sartre: Romantic Rationalist. As a writer, Murdoch has a powerful penchant for viewing reality through a philosophical lens. She retains a fascination for epistemology: the philosophical inquiry into the nature of knowledge and how we know what we know. Her characters often exhibit flaws that invariably involve failures in self-knowledge or their perception of the world. Murdoch is also often concerned with ontology: the philosophical study of being and existence. She seems to enjoy positing her characters into a universe in turmoil (the sea is an apt metaphor in her Booker Prize winning novel The Sea, The Sea). Murdoch has her memoir writing lead character Charles Arrowby, a big name in the London theatrical world, slowly unravel into a chaos of delusions, fantasies and strange obsessions after encountering his long-lost first love.
The amorphous nature of knowledge and the efficacy of our endless search for truth and meaning in our lives is an ever-present concern for Murdoch. Her early novel A Severed Head is a bedroom farce that is elevated into a satire on morality and the price of self-delusion when a chronically unfaithful husband's wife leaves him for her psychoanalyst performing a very hands-on form of therapy. In this short novel Murdoch reveals her fascination with the philosophy of ethics as she highlights the slippery nature of morality whenever its human actors are overwhelmed by limitations in self-knowledge as well as their incessant need for connection.
This Everyman's Library edition features all of the usual excellent physical attributes: thick paper, an attractive red cloth book cover with a suitable, sturdy dust cover, an easy-to-read typeface (BEMBO) and a handy silk place-marker. This edition also features an informative introduction by Sarah Churchwell, a multi-discipline chronology which places the author and the novels in historical context and a select bibliography for further reading. This is a moderately priced heirloom edition of two novels by a writer whose wit and intelligence give her novels a hard satirical edge that offers tremendous pleasure to discerning readers. Iris Murdoch is a writer whose work has both depth and humor, a rare combination that may appeal to you if you are unfamiliar with her novels.
- Hardcover: 680 pages
- Publisher: EVERYMAN - TRADE; UK ed. edition (15 March 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1841593702
- ISBN-13: 978-1841593708
- Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 3.8 x 21.1 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 721 g
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- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 417,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)