I’ve been at my new job for just over two weeks and I’m still sort of adjusting to my new schedule and commute and responsibilities. It’s going pretty well, and one good thing about having a long commute is that I have ample reading time. I’ve been bringing a work-related book or reading material with me (something about marketing or advanced Google AdWords, or case studies), as well as a novel for pleasure-reading.
My current literary crush is Iris Murdoch. I read “The Sea, The Sea” a few months ago and rather loved it. I have several other books by her which I’ve also not read yet, so I picked up my copy of “Nuns and Soldiers.” I am also loving it so far (just about 125 pages in). Here are some passages I underlined (gasp!) in pencil in the book.
One relationship in the book is a friend between two men: Guy and the Count. The Count is only nicknamed the Count because of a joke among his college schoolmates that all Polish exiles are Counts. Guy is his mentor/best friend, and he is dying from cancer. He’s on his deathbed and the Count is keeping him company since Guy is avoiding/sparing his wife (Gertrude) from all that time together. Here, the Count is thinking about the nature of his current interactions with Guy:
The Count had often talked of abstract matters with Guy, but in the past they had talked of so much else, they had even gossiped. Now there were few topics left. Their conversation had become refined and chilled until nothing personal remained between them. Love? There could be no expression of it now, any gesture of affection would be a gross error of taste. It was a matter of behaving correctly until the end. The awful egoism of the dying. The Count knew how little now Guy needed or wanted his affection, or even Gertrude’s; and he knew too, in his grief, that he himself was withdrawing, stifling his compassion, coming to see it as fruitless suffering. We do not want to care too much for what we are losing. Surreptitiously we remove our sympathy, and prepare the dying one for death, diminish him, strip him of his last attractions. We abandon the dying like a sick beast left under the hedge. Death is supposed to show us truth, but is its own piece of illusion. It defeats love. Perhaps shows us that after all there is none. I am thinking Guy’s thoughts now, the Count said to himself. I do not think this. But then I am not dying.
Another pair of characters are Tim and Daisy. Tim is tangentially related to Guy. He is a struggling artist/part-time art teacher who can’t make it, no matter what he tries. His girlfriend Daisy is a talented artist but gives up on everything and everyone and prefers to drink and complain about writer’s block than look for a job. Daisy is about to get kicked out of her flat because she hasn’t been paying rent; Tim can’t afford to float her anymore, and is thinking about suggesting that they move in together, even though they’ve discussed and dismissed the issue many times before:
Tim often let Daisy decide things, even if the decision seemed dotty, because he trusted her instincts and because if he decided anything and it went wrong she never stopped blaming him, even if she had agreed with the original idea. Just now there were no very clear ideas. There would be one long row, the usual one-sided row with Tim saying nothing, but feeling bitter and sad. Once Daisy, in a rage, had thrust a rose he had given her, long thorny stem and all, down the back of her shirt, and that sharp pricking pain all the way down his spine came back to him during those vituperative monologues.
I don’t have the energy right now to unpack or otherwise discuss these, but suffice it to say that they each contained some elements and details or truth that appealed to me strongly. And now I will attempt to sleep.