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Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
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Under the Net (1954)

by Iris Murdoch

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1,482325,016 (3.61)117
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Legacy LibrariesIris Murdoch, Sylvia Plath

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English (30)  Dutch (1)  Hebrew (1)  All (32)
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
Not particularly humorous; the inclusion of this novel under the Comedy section of the Guardian's list made me anticipate something funnier. That said, I did enjoy it and perhaps if you are a writer, Jake might seem more comic.

I liked Murdoch's writing style & look forward to reading some of her other books such as The Sea, the Sea. ( )
  leslie.98 | Sep 9, 2017 |
Bit by bit I am going to read Murdoch's entire canon. She's an exceptional writer, and from the first lines of the book I knew that I was going to like reading it. No one is likeable and nothing much happens and the long scenes of walking around London getting drunker ought to be really obnoxious, but not under Murdoch's controlled prose and critical perceptiveness. This is a first novel and you can tell because she's more explicit in it than in others about Jake's failings--at one point he openly reports to the reader that he changed the subject abruptly because he could not see the previous comment going anywhere in his favour--and Murdoch is being very Murdochy.

I wonder how many self-important men she knew, because she's writing about them all the time, and writing from their perspective at that. It sometimes sends me out of my mind because they are so obnoxious, obsessed with their status as creative intellectuals, and I've met their like time and again. I wonder how I can stand to read from the perspective of the kind of person I hate so much. Such pretension! Such egoism! Such manipulation!

I also find myself surprised at how well she knows a drunken night in the city, as you seldom imagine the social culture of her time making room for a woman rambling the streets as the men do in this story, and yet there's this first-hand sincerity to their odysseys. Furthermore, the difficulty of sleeping on park benches with an inconvenient bar in the centre--I've yet to sleep on a park bench, but have struggled with other vagrant-discouraging constructions in public spaces. It suggests that as much as she seems to know and belong to academia, she is not detached from the life of the transient and the rambler. I didn't like how I saw too much of my own life in the way Jake sponges and networks his way into shelter for a night. ( )
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
  BrokenTune | Aug 21, 2016 |
Quite quickly you realize that Murdoch's fiction wears her love for philosophy on her sleeve, as even in this comic outing, her first novel, there is depth and insight. From start to finish, the complexities of relationships, love, life, the supernatural, art, and any number of other things pique our interest. The novel is written as a first-person narrative, and is clearly meant to be published by the protagonist once the novel comes to a close. The central character, and narrator, is a young author himself, and espouses some of Murdoch's own thinking on the life of a young author and the intrinsic debates that must rage within the mind of the young artiste. I particularly liked the depiction of the Bohemianesque artistic milieu of mid-twentieth century London and Paris, especially the central character's escapades around Paris in search of his lost love. Some of the comical moments are hardly laugh-out-loud, but still a fantastic first novel from one of the twentieth century's greats. ( )
  m-andrews | Feb 2, 2016 |
Six-word review: Picaresque adventures of a would-be writer.

Extended review:

One of the rules of improvisational theatre is to say yes--to go along with everything another suggests. Sometimes this rule is expressed as "Yes, and." Denying and blocking bring a scene to a halt; "yes" allows it to build.

Numerous times in reading Under the Net I had the feeling that the novel was working on the principles of improv comedy, and nowhere more so than in the passages pertaining to the kidnapping of the dog. The aftermath of that impulsive act colors the rest of the story and serves as an effective device for exposing character.

At other times, I was reminded of the delusions and paranoid fantasies of a Dostoevsky character, particularly Golyadkin in The Double. The inner life of the narrator and main character, Jake Donaghue, appears as quirky and self-contradictory as a creature of Lewis Carroll.

Jake is a semi-employed translator of French pulp novels who has been sponging off a friend and is suddenly evicted for reasons of disappointed romance. He thinks that he may be able to solve his homelessness and cash-flow problems with the aid of a former amour. His life is too complicated a history of mistaken choices and poor judgments to be readily untangled by his present behavior, but he flails on, vacillating between the philosophical and the comic. His remorse for past misdeeds is genuine, and yet his present conduct borders on the slapstick as much as on the poignant. Jake is a sympathetic antihero whose way of skating through life, tragicomic elements aside, raises interesting questions about the implausible possible.

One of the aspects that I took to heart is a lesson that I know I struggle with as much as anyone: the degree and depth to which one can hold to a conviction, a certainty, about which one is utterly wrong. Coming to terms with that unpalatable revelation is easier than recognizing it in the first place. Luckily for Jake, not all such epiphanies are painful in the end. ( )
4 vote Meredy | Sep 7, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
One feels uneasily that any analytic explanation of the book weighs it down, adds a portentousness to what is in fact, light, amusing and rapid. I would plead in extenuation that this, of all the books [ASB covers only the first seven novels of IM], is the most philosophic, the one where analysis of ideas, such as Miss Murdoch herself applies to Sartre's novels is the most apposite technique of understanding the action, and not illegitimate, Since every sentence, as is not always true in the later books, has a sense of being carefully written, 'placed'.... Relationships between characters, although they *exist*, are worked round ideas, and are in very large part relationships of ideas.
added by KayCliff | editDegrees of Freedom, A. S. Byatt (May 29, 1970)
 
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Epigraph
All, all of a piece throughout:
Thy Chase had a Beast in view:
Thy Wars brought nothing about;
Thy Lovers were all untrue,
'Tis well an old Age is out,
And time to begin a New.


DRYDEN: THE SECULAR MASQUE
Dedication
To: RAYMOND QUENEAU
First words
When I saw Finn waiting for me at the corner of the street I knew at once that something had gone wrong. Finn usually waits for me in bed, or leaning up against the side of the door with his eyes closed.
Quotations
Hugo noticed only details. He never classified. It was as if his vision were sharpened to the point where even classification was impossible, for each thing was seen as absolutely unique. I had the feeling that I was meeting for the first time an almost completely truthful man ...

Starting a novel is like opening a door on a misty landscape; you can still see very little but you can smell the earth and feel the wind blowing.
After the dignity of silence and absence, the vulgarity of speech.
If one has good reasons for an action one should not be deterred from doing it because one may also have bad reasons.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140014454, Paperback)

A comic novel about work and love, wealth and fame

Jake Donaghue, garrulous artist, meets Hugo Bellfounder, silent philosopher.

Jake, hack writer and sponger, now penniless flat-hunter, seeks out an old girlfriend, Anna Quentin, and her glamorous actress sister, Sadie. He resumes acquaintance with the formidable Hugo, whose ‘philosophy’ he once presumptuously dared to interpret. These meetings involve Jake and his eccentric servant-companion, Finn, in a series of adventures that include the kidnapping of a film-star dog and a political riot on a film set of ancient Rome. Jake, fascinated, longs to learn Hugo’s secret. Perhaps Hugo’s secret is Hugo himself? Admonished, enlightened, Jake hopes at last to become a real writer.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:47 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Jake, hack writer and sponger, now penniless flat-hunter, seeks out an old girlfriend, Anna Quentin, and her glamorous actress sister, Sadie. He resumes acquaintance with formidable Hugo, whose 'philosophy' he once presumptuously dared to interpret. These meetings involve Jake and his eccentric servent-companion, Finn, in a series of adventures that include the kidnapping of a film-star dog and a political riot in a film-set of ancient Rome"--Cover.… (more)

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