Saturday, January 28, 2006

the sea, the sea

I finally finished The Sea, The Sea, by Iris Murdoch.
It was magnificent! I've read a number of her books, my favorite till now being The Bell, but I haven't picked up one of her novels in years.
Charles Arrowby, the main character/narrator, is self-centered and deluded, but still you manage to feel sorry for him. I thought Murdoch wrote very well in the male voice. I have always loved her characters, and the ones in this book well drawn. But it's more than characters, it's plot and insight.
I will admit that the beginning is a bit slow, with pages of description, and there is a segment after the climax where I felt my willingness to suspend my disbelief on trial (can anyone be that self-deluded?), but I was paid back 10-fold as the book wraps up, and the parallels to The Tempest work like a little puzzle.
Unfortunately I was often reading without a pen handy, so i wasn't able to mark up the passages as usual, but I'll point out a couple that I liked. Murdoch gives some descriptions of food in the book that are so refreshing, I felt like eating the meals she described.

"I do not normally eat at breakfast time since even half a slice of buttered toast can induce an inconvenient degree of hunger, and eating too much breakfast is a thoroughly bad start to the day. I am however not at all averse to elevenses which can come in great variety. There are, as indicated above, moments for oranges. There are also moments for chilled port and plum cake."

She also is very into describing rocks and stones...
"The stones, so close-textured, so variously decorated, so individual, so handy, pleased me as if they were a small harmless tribe which I had discovered. Some of them were beautiful with a simple wit beyond that of any artist: light grey with thin pink traceries, black with elaborate white crosses, brown with purple ellipses, spotted and blotched and striped..."


michi said...

i loved that book too, sarah. wonderful descriptions, pages that i remember reading again and again.


SarahJane said...

yeah for you! at one point i o.d-ed on her, so this was my first foray back in. now i'm stumped on what to read next.

michi said...

there is another reason i will always remember this book. i read it very shortly after breaking up with my british boyfriend, and i found a word in the book that i only knew because he had used it once, introduced it to me, it was "kedgeree". i wrote a poem soon after, and these are the closing lines:

This book in my lap
can’t be someone else’s story,
when I find among its pages
a word I had not known before you.

and "this book" is "the sea, the sea".

i must confess it is the only book by murdoch i have read so far, but a few are on my ever-growing reading list; have been for a while. what would you recommend?


SarahJane said...

She also used the word "occluded" three times. I counted.
I'd recommend "The Bell," which has a very memorable heroine, and then "The Sacred and Profane Love Machine."

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