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Iris Murdoch as I Knew Her

de A. N. Wilson

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934224,301 (2.94)4
A brilliant, controversial and insightful biography. Fifteen years ago, Iris Murdoch asked A. N. Wilson to be her biographer. This book is a tribute to the novelist he knew for thirty years. This is not Iris Murdoch the Alzheimer's patient, but Iris Murdoch the witty conversationalist, the emotional chaotic and, above all, the writer. Both sad and farcical, this completely personal attempt to set the record straight gives us back the fiercely intelligent novelist and professional philosopher, and will cause amusement as it ruffles feathers.… (més)
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Some people are irked by thinking that not enough of Iris Murdoch is revealed in this book. It seems they haven't read the title. Andrew Wilson concentrates on his friendship with Murdoch and John Bayley as he remembers it. Of course there's a lot about Wilson.
This is a useful and respectful treatment of Murdoch. There's plenty about her wavering philosophical standpoints and her journey to a religious stance.
Wilson laments that presently she is remembered as an Alzheimer sufferer, more than as the star novelist she was. This has arisen through the film "Iris", a resultant of Bayley's three books about his wife; books in which the myth of the "dear old couple" is revised to reveal much turmoil in their life together.
A.N. Wilson is an excellent independent thinker and writer and we are lucky to have him.
  ivanfranko | Feb 8, 2018 |
I ought, perhaps, to express a personal interest in this book. Iris Murdoch was a friend and, intermittently, a colleague of my mother during their respective academic careers at Oxford, and she even assumed the role of ‘unofficial godmother’ to one of my sisters (who is quite a few years older than me, although it might not be very gallant of me to say so). Although her and my mother’s paths diverged as time went on, I was fortunate enough to meet Iris Murdoch a few times as a teenager, and it was only natural that I should later come to enjoy her novels.

I was, therefore, torn between great curiosity to read A N Wilson’s insights into her life, and a certain trepidation about how her reputation might be eroded by any unseemly and unnecessary revelations. Wilson seems to have harboured the same concern himself, and reiterates his ambivalence about the reminiscences published by John Bayley, Iris’s long-suffering husband, which spawned the film Iris. Wilson has established a reputation as one of our leading literary biographers – indeed, I would suggest that his biographies have come to outstrip those of his novels that I have read, which seldom left any lasting imprint on my mind. This book is, however, not a conventional biography, being instead a series of Wilson’s recollections of time spent with iris Murdoch and John Bayley

As a consequence of Bayley’s books, it is now fairly common knowledge that iris Murdoch led an adventurous and promiscuous private life (indeed less private than might have been advisable for such a celebrated woman), conducting affairs with numerous men and women throughout her circle. Bayley was generally considered to have accepted all of this with a fairly good grace. Wilson speculates, however (and I agree) that perhaps his published memoirs of Iris’s life were really represented a means of securing revenge for a lifetime of indignities, tarnishing her reputation though allegations of rampant nymphomania, although, of course, for many people such a revelation might serve instead to enhance her reputation.

Wilson came to know both Iris Murdoch and John Bayley well, the latter having been his tutor during his undergraduate days. Wilson was already a fan of Murdoch’s early novels, having been introduced to them as a teenager, and he and his first wife become fairly close to the Murdoch-Bayley household. That closeness to the couple gave Wilson considerable insights into how their relationship worked, and yielded some unexpected revelations. One of the discoveries that came as the greatest surprise came from one of Wilson’s conversations during the 1980s with Bayley in which the latter professed (quite proudly) never to have read any of his wife’s novels, beyond a quick glance at the opening pages.

Wilson’s own reminiscences further detract from any shred of glamour that might have been left to Murdoch and Bayley, depicting them as relentlessly consuming vast amounts of cheap alcohol, eating bizarre and unappetising meals, and sinking into argumentative rancour. On balance I think I would have been wiser not to have read this book, which has only detracted from my recollections of her novels. ( )
1 vota Eyejaybee | Jan 24, 2018 |
"Iris Murdoch as I knew her" (fortunately not in the Biblical sense) includes way too much Wilson and not enough Murdoch. He, his two wives, his kids, his father-in-law and his dog totally crowd out the actual subject of the book. I wanted to read about Iris Murdoch. Instead, I have to suffer through the author's tortured history of (not) becoming a priest. Despite a creepy habit of taking detailed notes of intimate conversations, Wilson is no Boswell. While his long acquaintance with Iris Murdoch and John Bayley (his tutor) offers a few entertaining glimpses into the strange academic life in Oxford, its overall lack of sympathy for its subject and, in the end, rather vituperative tone towards John Bayley will not provide lasting value. ( )
1 vota jcbrunner | Aug 29, 2010 |
A bit too much of A.N. Wilson, and a bit too little of Iris Murdoch ( )
  hayesstw | Jun 2, 2006 |
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A brilliant, controversial and insightful biography. Fifteen years ago, Iris Murdoch asked A. N. Wilson to be her biographer. This book is a tribute to the novelist he knew for thirty years. This is not Iris Murdoch the Alzheimer's patient, but Iris Murdoch the witty conversationalist, the emotional chaotic and, above all, the writer. Both sad and farcical, this completely personal attempt to set the record straight gives us back the fiercely intelligent novelist and professional philosopher, and will cause amusement as it ruffles feathers.

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