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winterwren

The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch

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Well, I am not sure I am doing this right. I have never made the "first" post at a thread.

I nominated this book and three people voted for it so I "guess" we will read it. I voted for The Great Gatsby so I will also be reading that book.

Has anyone else read any other books by Iris Murdoch? Or have you already read The Sea, The Sea. It is a pretty good size book. About 500 pages or more I think. Do you have the book already or will you need sometime to get it? Do you want to set a date for discussion?

Please let me know.

Trudy

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I'm intending to read this one, as well as The Great Gatsby - but I'll need a few days to get hold of a copy, I think.

 

I haven't read any Iris Murdoch before, and I have no idea what to expect, really - but she's been an author I've always meant to get round to, so I'm pleased that this has finally nudged me into it.

 

Anyone else?

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I did vote for this book, but as my own choices were runners-up I'm going to read them. If I have time left, I may read this book as well. Like Claire, Iris Murdoch is one of those authors I've been meaning to get round to. It would be nice to get started.

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I forgot to add the links. Here they are:

 

<iframe src="http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=bookgrouponli-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=014118616X&fc1=000000&=1&lc1=0000ff&bc1=CCFFFF&lt1=_blank&IS2=1&bg1=CCFFFF&f=ifr" width="120" height="240" scrolling="no" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" frameborder="0"></iframe>

 

<iframe width="300" height="300" scrolling="no" frameborder=0 src="http://rcm-uk.amazon.co.uk/e/cm?t=bookgrouponli-21&l=st1&search=sea%20sea%20iris%20murdoch&mode=books-uk&p=12&o=2&f=ifr&bg1=C6E7DE&lt1=_blank"> <table border='0' cellpadding='0' cellspacing='0' width='300' height='300'><tr><td><A HREF='http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/redirect-home/bookgrouponli-21' target=_blank><img src="http://images-eu.amazon.com/images/G/02/associates/recommends/default_300x300.gif" width=300 height=300 border="0" access=regular></a></td></tr></table></iframe>

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Okay, if everyone will let me know when they have a copy of the book, then we will pick a discussion date. Unless you want to discuss the book as you read. Let me know your preference. It might be a good idea to break the book up into sections and then put a due date on each section, talk about what we have read as we contniue to read the next part. Please give me any ideas you might have. Until everyone has a copy of the book we can talk about how you want this to work.

 

What is your vision of the perfect book read/discussion?

 

Trudy

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Oh.

 

I also wanted to say that I kind of took charge here because this was my nomination. However, I can follow as well as lead and if some one else would like to be in charge or if you want no leader, let me know.

 

It is a book about the sea.... so I think mutiny would be appropriate! :)

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Iris was born in Dublin in 1919, but grew up in London. According to her, her greatest influence was her father, who discussed books with her from her early childhood. She was a scholar and graduated in 1942 from Somerville College, Oxford. Years later in 1948 she returned and joined the faculty there at St Anne's College, Oxford, teaching philosophy until 1963.

 

The Sea, The Sea won the Booker Prize and was published in 1978. Her first book was Under the Net and was published in 1954. These are but two of the 26 novels written by Murdoch. Her last published book was Jackson's Dilemma published in 1995 only four years prior to her death She also taught and wrote books on philosophy. In addition to novels and works of philosophy, she wrote plays and a volume of poetry. Iris Murdoch received numerous awards and honors for her writing. She was made Dame Commander in the Order of the British Empire in 1987.

 

I think that she is first and foremost a grand story teller. I hope to eventually read everything that she has written. So far the books that I have read are notable for the choice of story idea, always a little something off beat and refreshingly different. Then the story is told with interesting twists and turns and I think always a bit of humor. I do think that when you look you can also see a little philosophy in the stories' themes, the characters' actions and reactions, and in the finished tale. The writing is just excellent.

 

Iris Murdoch died in 1999 after battling Alzheimer's. Her husband wrote two memoirs shortly after her death, one was Elegy for Iris. A movie was made about her life based on the books written by her widower, John Bayley. Kate Winslet played the young Iris and Judi Dench the mature woman. Bayley was also a writer and a fellow instructor at Oxford, were they met. They married in 1956. In addition to writing, the couple also traveled together for joint speaking engagements. Peter Conradi, friend and admirer, has written a biography of Dame Murdoch.

 

I hope that you read and enjoy The Sea, The Sea and that it is only the first of many reading adventures that you will have with the well told tales of Iris Murdoch!

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As I posted elsewhere, I don't much like obligations so I'm against the idea of having to finish a section by a certain time. Especially since, if I'm going to read this book, it's going to be after the other two so I'll be starting late anyway. Furthermore, I'm more of a 'discuss as I go' sort of person. The downside of that, of course, is that I may post spoilers, but I'll watch for that. Any exciting twists will be left out until other people reach that point, and until then I'll discuss characterization or so.

 

Thanks for taking charge by the way winterwren. I was just thinking how difficult it would be to get the discussions started, as everyone is still finding their feet, so it's good that you've started up!

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I'm in the Discuss as We Go group as well. That would be my preference. If others would rather wait till the end, they could always not read the threads here, until they had finished. And different threads started by different people, whenever they felt they had something worth asking, or an aspect worth looking at - rather than anything too organised, or trying to have lots and lots of things all going on on a single thread.

 

As for spoilers: If we have several different threads going on, (or loads!) - then each one will deal with different bits of the book. If we could mention in the title, or in the first post, what chapter they were about, or how far through the plot they dealt with, people could take the decision not to read a thread about chapter 9, if they'd only got to chapter 3, maybe.

 

I figure it's always a risk with talking about books - you might find out stuff you don't want to know yet.....but it's well worth it for the rewards of sharing what you're reading, rather than leaving it as a solitary pleasure!

 

Thanks for taking the initiative and prodding us into action, winterwren. :) - and for the background on Iris Murdoch.

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It arrived safely :)

 

Now - shall I start this one first, or The Great Gatsby....Decisions, Decisions.

 

I guess I could read them both at the same time :D

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I plan to go shopping on Saturday, but in any case it'll be the last of the three I read (I've pretty much decided to read it as long as I don't suddenly get covered in bookrings). I expect to start it towards the end of next week, so as far as I'm concerned, you lot start and I'll jump in when I'm ready.

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Great to see you here and I am gald that you are reading this one with us. Please feel free to voice your opinions on how you would like to discuss, etc.

 

I wish you good luck ( and a bargain) in getting the book!!

 

Let us know when you have it!!

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i will pick it up on Monday.. that will give me time to finish up one of the four

books i am reading already.. i got carried away and started reading Chronicles by Bob Dylan.. before i finished The Rule of Four.. bad bad.. so this weekend i will try to finish 2 books.. i have never read an Irisis Murdoch book.. see you once i have begun..

 

In the Constitution We Trust

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Really hope you enjoy it, beachmama. I finished it today, and I've really loved it (and like you, I've never read any Iris Murdoch before)

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Anyone else out there still reading?

 

Having read this and loved it - I now want to know what else Iris Murdoch has written. :)

 

Has anyone else read anything else by her that they could say a bit about, and recommend?

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I've come to this group very late and it looks like most of the discussion has finished, but as I've read the book, I thought I would post my thoughts.

 

I read an Iris Murdoch novel many years ago and didn't particularly enjoy it, but I loved this one. Like some of the other readers, I hated the narrator, but I think Murdoch intended us to feel this way as she wanted to highlight his faults and the unreliability of everything he says. I think fundamentally it's a novel about possessiveness and jealousy. All the relationships seem flawed because of this and I think the sense of resignation at the end comes from Charles' acceptance of this once he has to face the loss of Hartley. I think the novel is also about accepting reality rather than creating ideals - Charles idealises Hartley and this causes him to act in an irresponsible and positively unpleasant way and he cannot accept that the mediocrity of her relationship with Ben (which I think Charles builds up to be a huge tyranny to justify his own romantic response - he is, after all, an actor) is all she wants. In Charles' journey to enlightenment and self-awareness (through becoming a monster himself who imprisons Hartley), he loses his fear of the sea-monster in the sea and the incident where he falls into the water (and believes he sees the sea-monster again) symbolises his rebirth. I think it's also interesting that James provides a kind of catalyst for this in his Buddhist beliefs - true happiness can only be reached through non-attachment. And that's the significance of the ending, I think, where Charles rejects all romantic attachments even though he still receives offers.

 

A great book! I'm only sorry I've missed all the discussion :( but I'll join another forum now :). However, I'd be pleased if anyone wanted to comment on what I've said.

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Very thought-provoking comments, Ade. Welcome to the forum!

 

I like what you say about Charles struggle with accepting reality, rather than idealising things - that does seem to make sense of alot of what is going on in his head as things go on. And that's a decent explanation of what's going on in the ending as well - which I did find was rather a nothingy let down, that way the novel sort of tails off into ordinariness.

 

I'm still not sure what to make of the supernatural elements in the book, though. Are we supposed to believe in them as real on some level, or as figments of Charles imagination, or what? I found them quite uncomfortable for some reason.

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Yes, I agree that the supernatural elements are incongruous but, perhaps because of this, striking. Although at times I wondered whether the book was going to become a Gothic novel (and I think Murdoch does create some genuinely spooky moments), I think this is partly because we are limited by Charles' narrative viewpoint with its romantic inclinations (perhaps akin to what Jane Austen does with Gothic in "Northanger Abbey") but also because images like the sea-monster are symbolic rather than real. The more I think about it, the more amazing the novel becomes in my mind - there are so many different layers. Why, for example, does Titus have to die? Is he another ideal - the son that Charles never had - and so this image also has to be destroyed? And it seems that the fact he drowns is hugely significant - what does the sea represent in the novel? It feels as if it would take a lifetime to understand all of the novel's intricacies.

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I think that's one of the things that I loved about it too. The enormous sense of depth and complexity - that you were only taking in a fraction of all that was there. Much more satisfying than something much more straightforward, where you feel you can take in all that the author intended in a single reading.

 

(But I have to be in the right sort of mood to concentrate on something like The Sea, The Sea. Sometimes simple and obvious is good too :D )

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Yes, it's amazing how different books can be. I've just finished "The Shadow of the Wind" and, although I enjoyed it as a story, it just seemed so simple compared to Murdoch. I think the difference is in how far the book keeps working after you've read it: Zafon told a good story but its effects pretty much finished on the last page for me whereas Murdoch just keeps coming back with more!

 

I'm going to give the Ukrainian tractors a go next! :) There are some interesting discussions in the poetry sections too - think I'm getting the hang of this now!

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You certainly give the impression of "having got the hang of it" ;)

 

Get yourself up to the poetry section straight away and launch in :)

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I am a Chinese graduate student who is writing sth about Iris Murdoch's The Sea, the Sea. But there is little information or criticism about this book.

Would you be so kind as to give me some help?

anything is ok!!!!

about the author or the book!

my e-mail address: prospice76@yahoo.com.cn

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I just finished this book. Went looking for a specific book thread and am shocked to see that there is no Irish Murdoch in there! I think she's a seriously undervalued writer these days. I can perahsp understand why some of her books aren't to the taste of people today - but I think they are brilliant.

 

I say 'not to the taste' because the plot isn't necessarily the point in her books , at least that's how I feel. You might get attached to something in particular that happens, thinking it's important, and she might not even mention it again. But where she excels so magnificently is in portraying people as they might see themsevles. I find in much writing today that the narrator or main character often says things and does things that are emotionaly superior to where they actually are in their lives - or at least to where the writer is trying to portray them. I remember having this problem greatly with Hollinghurt's Line of Beauty. But Murdoch is the absolute master in not making this error and allowing the reader to glimpse into the reality of her characters.

 

In The Sea, The Sea in particular she does this stunningly. Nowhere in the book does she have the main character saying to himself that he's a big of an arrogant, pompous twit who's obsessed with something that is never going to happen, but it's just all there in front of you. It's so powerful that she allows the reader to grasp this for themsevles through the characters actions. It's so brave and so respectful of her readers.

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