29 Mar 2010 – came as part of my membership of the Iris Murdoch Society

I took this to the Conference with me as I hadn’t managed to read it beforehand, but didn’t get the time to read much of it.  David Morgan was supposed to be giving a session at the Conference but he was indisposed, but Anne Rowe from the Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies and Nick Turner gave a marvellous reading from the letters and the book, after Anne had introduced a book she had seen through to publication.

I approached the book with a little trepidation.  As we all know, Iris Murdoch is one of my heroines, and while I’d enjoyed seeing her youthful self in the Writer at War volume, and cried over her decline in Bayley’s books, I wasn’t sure how much I’d mind her having her feet of clay displayed.  However, I needn’t have worried – she comes across as very human and alive, a bit scary, well-meaning and truly attempting to help people, inquisitive to the point of voyeurism, but never, I am sure, overstepping the mark between tutor and pupil.  The book itself, which grew out of an attempt by Morgan, who knew IM when she taught at the Royal College of Arts, to write a letter to her biographer and friend, Peter Conradi, is a rather sprawling and disconnected piece, consisting of impressions, notes, jottings and explanations.  But it’s very vivid and I think throws much illumination onto IM as a person, especially in her "London" persona, which was quite separate from her "Oxford" one.  Of course we are reminded of various scenes and characters from the novels, although Morgan is quick to point out he is not the direct model for any characters in the books.

Overall, we are left with a lively and vivid portrait of a lively and vivid woman, as well as of the conflicted art student Morgan had become.  Evocative and fascinating, and did not destroy my love of IM In the slightest.