[lit-ideas] Re: Classics, DeMille, P.D. James & Science Fiction

  • From: Lawrence Helm <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 16 Feb 2021 08:34:04 -0800


I never read Murdoch.  Her novels would have been available, most of them, as I was starting work at Douglas Aircraft Company.  I had entered engineering, a field I hitherto had no interest in, but since I had started a family (with my first wife) and had a lot of bills to pay, I needed to learn engineering.

I initially had no intention of staying in engineering.  I could no longer go to school full time, but I could take a class or two in the evening; which I did.  But I one day had a cataclysmic argument with one of my favorite professors over the merits of Alexander Pope.  By that time I was making more money than I could teaching; so I gave up that pursuit and contented myself (as much as possible) in engineering.  I switched the bulk of my serious reading to history.  I knew about Iris Murdoch, and considered reading her at different times, but never did, and I don't remember why.


On 2/16/2021 2:22 AM, epostboxx@xxxxxxxx wrote:

On 16. Feb 2021, at 07:09, Lawrence Helm <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

P. D. James has more than one [book in the Franklin collection].  I read 
perhaps all of her Adam Dagleish series novels, some more than once.  My 
recollection is that she is more consciously literary.
If I recall correctly, James makes passing reference to 'concrete' copies of 
Iris Murdoch books (i.e., something like 'can you pick me up a copy of' or 
's/he was reading ...') in more than one of her novels. I got the impression 
that she was drawing attention to the distinction between her (in my view, 
highly literary) 'detective fiction' and Murdoch's (more 'serious') 

Iris Murdoch is THE author (of fiction) who over the past 30 years has had the 
most profound effect on me - so much so that I feel (at least at the moment) 
that I cannot re-read her.  (I hope some of you will understand what I mean.) 
THE ACCIDENTAL MAN 'hit' me so strongly that I was unable to finish it in 
English and could only get though it in German translation (i.e. 'at a 
distance'). Somewhere I have a piece about it in which I argue that the author 
of the introductory commentary of the particular (Penguin) edition I had 
started with misunderstood Murdoch's 'point/intention' completely.

I remember for a couple of years deliberately holding back on reading THE NICE 
AND THE GOOD because it was for me the last left to read, and after that there 
would be no more ...

Chris Bruce,
recalling many a hard lesson learned
under Iris Murdoch's tutelage, in
Kiel, Germany

P.S. I also think that much of the commentary made about JACKSON'S DILEMMA - 
particularly that concerning the effect of Murdoch's dementia on the book's 
quality - shows a failure to 'engage with the text as it is', which results in 
missing something(s) essential in what Murdoch was trying to convey.

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