Monday, May 2, 2016

Day 1 of Tom's new job, day 1 of a week of showers and clouds, day 1 of figuring out how to figure things out.

In Iris Murdoch's novel The Black Prince, her character Arnold, a prolific, successful novelist (his plot summaries sound rather like the summaries of Murdoch's own novels), tells his friend Bradley, a very different sort of novelist (ascetic, spare, not at all prolific): "I believe that the stuff has some merits or I wouldn't publish it. But, I live, I live, with an absolute continuous sense of failure. I am always defeated, always. Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea."

Both Arnold and Bradley are entirely unreliable, both as narrators and as people who understand themselves. So once again, Murdoch has written something that sounds like a plausible artist's statement yet might also be seen as a self-serving excuse for imperfection, or maybe even just plain old ignorance. The problem for me, as I am rereading this novel (and I have read it many times before), is that I keep trying to apply this stuff to myself, and then mistrusting my response, and then mistrusting Murdoch. I think she is mocking me. As a puppet master, she is beginning, in my head, to resemble Ivy Compton-Burnett and Flannery O'Connor and Muriel Spark--a Macbethian trio if there ever was one.

Perhaps reading Murdoch is not the best choice for me right now, or perhaps it's the perfect choice. I feel I have no way of knowing. I am trapped in a slough of self-ignorance.


Carlene said...

HI Dawn,

I think you need --NEED--to read Howard Frank Mosher's newest novel, God's Kingdom. While I could do all the spoilers, I won't. Take this one on faith. It won't take you more than maybe 3 hrs or so. And you'll then want to give a copy to every single young person who is "stepping off into his own world" when you are done. Since you, too, are embarking on a new chapter in your life, maybe this is the book you should read? I am certain you'll like it, maybe even love it.

And I can't wait to sit and visit with you this week. =) Hugs...C

Dawn Potter said...

Thanks for this recommendation, Carlene. I've never read any of his work, so maybe now is the time.