Monday, April 30, 2007

The Sea, The Sea

Well, despite appearances I have been doing something other than working & playing around in our garden (although they seem to be the two dominant features of my life currently!)

I have been knitting, although fairly tedious pieces that don't warrant much discussion. I have also enjoyed getting to know my Secret Pal a bit better, which has been heaps of fun. I have been trying to give myself a bit of extra care, given recent stressful experiences (read, more baths!). I have been enjoying the sunshine and in particular, drinking Kopparberg Swedish pear cider (only from a giant red wine goblet!) and Aperol wine spritzers with orange slices, my two new favourite spring drinks! I have not been exercising due to sore knees. And I have been reading..
I have just started To The Lighthouse (Virginia Wolf) which I can't believe I have never read, and I have, in line with new years resolutions, bought a lovely old tattered copy of Sholokhov's And Quiet Flows the Don, which I am hoping to take with me on holiday soon. And I have just finished reading Iris Murdoch's The Sea, The Sea (1978).

I bought a Murdoch book (The Bell) last year, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I purchased it in an effort to read some UK fiction whilst here, and it really does have a sense of place. So when I saw The Sea (lets leave it at that from now on) in a charity shop, I snapped it up. Interestingly, it is both strongly resonant of The Bell (1973), and completely different. The Bell has a much more straightforward structure, which highlights the beauty of the prose. The characters are interesting, without being overly 'likeable' - the sense that everyone has faults is clear. In contrast, The Sea has an unusual structure - purportedly a diary but never quite fitting this genre. The prose, again, is beautiful and clear, and there is a more defined sense of human foibles and frailty. The entire story is told from the protagonist's view. It is in this sense that the diary structure rings true - the narrator's self-delusions are excruciatingly clear to the reader. He is a revisionist self-historian in many ways. And yet, I was never truly comfortable with the character. For a first person narrative, the distance between the reader & the protaganist felt too great - I like the idea of a dislikeable narrator, however I still need to have a sense of why I should continue reading. I did continue, and I did like this book. Alot. It is beautifully clever, and a masterpiece of technical writing I am sure. But it just didn't quite capture me. The introduction to this edition, by John Burnside, ends in identifying her body of work as a study on ideals and imperfection. This seems true - in many ways this book is beautiful, and wonderful, and yet it feels....almost like it has reached a level of perfection in one way that has come at the cost of that intangible 'something'. I am now committed to reading more Murdoch - I'll let you know how it goes!

Sadly, the only picture of the sea that I could find without resorting to my archive photos! It is the Med, from a city beach at Barcelona. Not at all the type of sea that Murdoch refers to, but at least a picture to liven up this dreary word-heavy post!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ah, the glorious sea. Not a whole lot of that around here...

Anyway, your SoundSwap goodies went into the mail from the US yesterday!