Under the Net
I have just finished Under the Net, the first novel by Iris Murdoch. It is the story of a lazy intellectual academic and boozer named Jake, who makes a living from translating, with a cast of characters, male and female, his friends Finn and Dave and his girlfriends or maybe lovers, or maybe objects of Jakes desires, two sisters Anna and Sadie, and Madge. At the start of the story, Madge, who he has been living with, along with Finn, throws him out of her house, as she is getting married to a bookie. So, begins the tale. And central to this tale there is Hugo, a big man, fireworks factory owner and head of a film company.
This is my first Iris Murdoch book. I remember when the film: Iris, came out there was a lot of talk in the media about her, I had only vaguely heard of, Iris Murdoch but, all the talk about how great a writer she was had me intrigued. I still haven’t watched the film, but I did see an exert from it with Jim Broadbent, as Iris’ husband, telling Judy Dench as Iris, suffering from the horrible disease of Alzheimer’s, what she did, when she couldn’t remember about her work, he tells her about all the wonderful books she had written. A heart-breaking scene. My wife Kathy worked in the field of Alzheimer’s and has studded at The Iris Murdoch centre for the disease in Stirling. So, Iris began to work her way into my conciseness and with a brilliant Twitter account that puts out regular quotes from her books I felt it was time for me to try one of her novels and to begin at the start, her first book, Under the Net.
Under the Net is a brilliant story, there is a lot of philosophical passages throughout the whole narrative and I remember reading a terrific book: At the Existentialist Café by Sarah Bakewell. It is a history of Philosophy – that doesn’t do it any justice at all and I may write about that one day – in it she mentions that Iris Murdoch wrote a biography on Jean-Paul Sartre, one more push to get me on the path to reading her novels. This book is also a great London novel and it is hard to believe that it came out in 1954, it’s so fresh. The only tell-tale signs are the pub opening and closing times. There is also a short detour into Paris, which is so descriptive, I think she must have loved Paris as much as she loved London. With Jakes acquisition of The Marvellous Mr Mars, a canine movie star and Mrs Tinckham and all her cats, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it in quick time, it was so easy to read, and I was sad when it finished. Sometimes, and I have heard a lot of people saying this, when you finish an enjoyable book, you don’t know where your next good one will come from well, now I know who to turn to.
In the past year or so I have been neglecting my Shakespeare journey, only the odd glance and a lot of guilt, my reputation as a Shakespearian shot to pieces. Then; The Royal Lyceum, just before Christmas, announced they will be performing: The Winter’s Tale, in the New Year. I haven’t saw a performance of this play nor have I read it so I am very excited and looking forward to it immensely. I started reading, from my copy of the complete works, The Winter’s Tale between Christmas and the New Year. There are no notes or guidelines with the complete works, just the raw play, so I have had to take my time, going back and re reading long passages to make sure I have a good grasp of the story.
In the complete works: The Winter’s Tale, is proceeded by Cymbeline and is followed by The Tempest, these are amongst the latter plays of Shakespeare. Doing my research online, Wikipedia, it says that it is one of (the problem plays) because the first three acts are filed with “intense phycological drama” and the last two acts are quite comedic. I must admit, I really did struggle with the beginning, not all of those first three acts, maybe one and a half. I could have done with some help, I did look in my local Waterston’s for a copy of the play by Arden or Oxford but, to no avail. I could have bought half a dozen Macbeth’s but, that’s probably because I live in Scotland, we seem to like it up here, I must admit I do love it too I have read it and saw it performed quite a few times, unlike The Winter’s Tale, which is brand new to me.
Now that I have finished reading the play though I haven’t been to see it yet I am not sure if I don’t agree with it being a problem play. The way it brings in “Gentlemen” to round of the story was a bit frustrating for me. It felt as if it was, not so much tying up loose ends as, spelling it out to us. This may be way off and once I have been to watch the play it may make more sense.
This post could be part one in a series about The Winter’s Tale. After I see it, my eyes and mind may be opened to the wonder and beauty of a late masterpiece. After all that is what happened with Hamlet, I didn’t find the play very inspiring when I first read it, then I bought and watched the DVD with David Tenant and was enthralled with it, re-read it went to see it performed on stage and at the cinema. Now, I love it so much.
A little post script here, just to get me over the five hundred words mark. This has been a good exercise, reading and getting to know The Winter’s Tale. It may not be very good, my post I mean, or all that informative but, it has managed to push me back onto the road of my Shakespeare journey. I know that’s corny but look at the word count. Words don’t always flow.
A Biography of Story
I am not a great lover of nonfiction books, I do love history and the odd travel book but, when I saw Trish Nicholson was publishing another book, I immediately pre-ordered it from the web site. With some strange quirk, I got this splendid tome at least two months early. The full title is: A Biography of Story: A Brief History of Humanity.
The book, or should I say Story, for it is sort of she who narrates this adventure, starts of at the beginning of mankind, with cave drawings and the short stories of early civilizations from all round the world, Australian Aboriginals, to Indian Temples. She writes about places and cultures with an expertise of an Academic, which she is but, written with an ease so kind to the eye and easy to read.
I love the short stories throughout the book, all surrounded by Nicholson’s wonderful prose. Her own love for the short story comes through on every page. And as she brings the narrative up to the modern age and wonders about Story’s future, in this digital world, you realize how much the written word of storytelling has evolved throughout the centuries and how much they mean to the author, Story.
She must have exhaustingly researched this book but it seems as if she just sat down at the typewriter and wrote it off the top of her head. I have read a few of Trish Nicholson’s books and they are all wonderfully written, from travel books to books on how to improve your writing. She doesn’t dumb down neither does she put on needless flourishes, when you read her books, you are in good company.