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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Under the Net by Iris Murdoch 
4th-Jun-2007 11:59 pm
Murdoch, Iris. Under the Net. 1977. New York: Penguin, 1954.
          Summary: Some years ago, the hack writer Jake Donaghue turned the wealthy Hugo Belfounder's philosophical maunderings into a flop of a novel. Feeling guilty about it ever since, Jake suddenly finds himself reunited with Hugo after being kicked out of his lodgings. In a series of unlikely adventures and comic misunderstandings, Jake learns to see the world from the perspective of others--not to mention as it really is--and, in the process, perhaps earn a new lease on life and career.
          Comments: What can I say? It's so wonderful (and so rare) to find a novel that stands so assuredly on its own terms, that is both memorable but modest, finely-controlled but seemingly effortless. And it's even rarer still to find a belated coming-of-age novel that is neither condescending nor escapist. I can't stand coming-of-age novels that try to preach to the reader or to dish up a protagonist that strikes one as an idealized version of either reader or writer (or both); to my delight, Jake, though perhaps there is a bit of Murdoch in him, is emphatically not the sort of person anyone would be or become if given the option. Even so, he's wholly believable and sympathetic.
          Murdoch's skillful arranging of this state of affairs with her protagonist allows her to step lightheartedly and humorously though the details of the plot. And, sure enough, there's plenty of absurdity. And, while I was not laughing out loud per se, so many scenes tickled the funny bone of my rational intellect: The left-wing riot on the film set, for example, or the theft of the show dog. Perhaps most ridiculous of all was the effort Jake put into sneaking into the hospital to see Hugo. Do they not have a such thing as "visiting hours" in hospitals in England?! (And if they do--talk about self-inflicted melodrama!)
          Anyway, I can't remember the last time I read such a fun piece of vintage "literary fiction." Authors like Iris Murdoch apparently exist to prove that being smart doesn't necessarily have to mean being dull. I can't wait to read more. (Hey, and what was that slashy vibe? Doesn't it seem like Jake might be/have been getting it on with every other male character in the novel??? *shakes head in amusement* )
          Notes: trade paperback, 29th printing
          Rating: 7/10 - A perfect little pearl of a novel. Diamonds may be flashier, but they're also icy cold. This novel boasts a soft, warmly luminescent glow.
5th-Jun-2007 06:20 am (UTC)
Whatever you do, just make sure you don't try to read the last book Iris Murdoch ever wrote, Jackson's Dilemma. She had Alzheimer's at the time she was writing it, and, um, the book shows it. It's unfortunately the only Iris Murdoch book I've ever read - I didn't realize it was the worst possible choice I could have made to start out with, and it was so awful that I haven't been able to motivate myself yet to try a different one and give her a fair chance.
5th-Jun-2007 08:56 pm (UTC)
She is one of my absolute heroes. I've always fantasized about being her for a little while.
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