Friday, 15 July 2011

Iris Murdoch Day

No time to write today, but tonight I am going to crawl off to bed to celebrate the last hours of the late Iris Murdoch's 92nd birthday with another re-reading of one of her books. I'd rather wanted to go for The Sea, the Sea, partly for its narrator's obsession with eating (I've been cooking this week as OH hasn't been well; I find the planning of food very time-consuming now that I'm out of practice and I thought Charles Arrowby's musings might have helped), and partly because it came first in the Twitter poll for favourite IM book* organised by @IrisMurdoch, in honour of her anniversary. Anyway, a hunt of the bookshelves upstairs proved fruitless (the shelves are all double-stacked, and have become rather inaccessible, in part owing to OH's own obsession with acquiring cookery books, which are piled on the floor and spilling out of boxes), so it had to come down to a choice between what was available/not recently read: The Sandcastle or A Word Child.

Because her dogs are so wonderful, I feel the need of one today. Really, I should be reading Under the Net, in that case, but The Sandcastle has, at least, a late dog, Liffey, who is mentioned near the start, as Mor and Nan are sharing, in a desultory way, a cold lunch (and the temperature refers both to the unappetizing meal and the atmosphere in which it is being eaten):
"You remember how poor Liffey used to hate this hot weather," said Mor.
Liffey had been their dog, a golden retriever, who was killed two years ago on the main road. The animal had formed the bond between Mor and Nan which their children had been unable to form. Half unconsciously, whenever Mor wanted to placate his wife he said something about Liffey.
Nan's face at once grew gentler. "Poor thing!" she said.
How much information is conveyed by that exchange!

I have never much liked this cover, which dates from the late 60s/early 70s, the later Penguin covers are much nicer. I'd much rather have either of these, the later Penguin or the rather elegant Vintage one:

 I think the Vintage covers are wonderful, and wish I were starting my collection with them, especially the cover for Under the Net, which I fell in love with the other day. Do have a look and see if you agree with me.

* I voted for The Nice and the Good, another lovely Vintage cover and, again, much better than my old Penguin one. I grew up at the wrong time evidently.


  1. Indeed, that bit of conversation between Mor and Nan is very telling.
    There must be some books by Iris Murdoch I have read, but a long time ago and in German, so I am not sure which one(s)... The cover for "Under The Net" is the one I like best from that collection.

  2. Thank you for your lovely remarks on Iris Murdoch. A long part of my life, like waiting for the next Beatles album, was waiting for her next novel. I had just pulled The Sea, The Sea for my reread today when I found your twoot and blog. Also The Nice and the Good, and quoted both in twoots. I still miss her and wish I were waiting for her next novel.

  3. it completely passed me by that yesterday was Iris Murdoch's birthday. I recently re-read The Bell and have been meaning to write about it ever since. I was a bit disappointed as this time round it didn't seem as good as the first, which has made me wary of re-reading any of her other books. I read The Sea, The Sea several years ago when I was ill with a bad cold and struggled though it - maybe I should re-read that one, I may think it's better than the first time. I think my favourite one of hers is The Green Knight.

    I know what you mean about double shelved books - sometimes they're just so inaccessible I just give up, or they all fall to the floor whilst I'm trying to get to the ones at the back. I do like the new covers too.

  4. My husband is a BIG fan of Iris Murdoch and constantly nags me to read her books. I've started The Message to the Planet and should really get back to it... But I have so many books on the go at the moment... Sometime very soon...

  5. Gosh, I think I've only read Under the Net and that was a long, long time ago. But I did love her husband's book about her, and of course, the film. I keep remembering those books on the stairs. I don't think I could bear to 'double-stack' and have only recently learned what it is. I would feel badly for the ones in the back that were never seen. :<)

  6. Just discovered your awesome blog: i was totally unaware that such as thing as 'Iris Murdoch day' exists! How cool...