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November 16, 1975 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1975-11-16

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Page Four


Sunday, November 16, 1975.

Page Four THE MICHIGAN DAILY Sunday, November 16, 1975,



A woman's compelling tale of
her life with a literary genius

Murdoch: A failed
attempt at a fiction,
,'philosophy merger

THE MAZE by Eileen Simp-
son. New York: Alfred Knopf,
450 pp. $7.95
9f novels by women in re-
cent years and by now they all
seem, with but few exceptions,
to merge into a tedious same-
ness. Polemical, self-depreca-
ting, sometimes humorous, con-
fessional, these novels revolve
around issues more than people.
They take at a starting point
the recognition that women are
exploited and tyrannized by
men. Their womencharacters
struggle' for independence and
self-awareness while men are
depicted not so much as people
.but as Men - the enemy, the
opposing force, the obstacle.
The Maze by Eileen Simpson
is not really all that different
from those novels by Erica Jong
and Alix Kate Shulman and Ju-
dith Rossner et. al and yet, in a
found way, it is very difficult.
The protagonist, Rosy Bold, is
struggling for herself, struggling
to maintain her own identity
without being submerged by the
man to whom she is married.
But the concern in this novel
lies not with Men and Woman
but rather with a man and a
woman.tNeither Simpson nor
Rosy Bold have any preconcep-
tions. about the way people
should act in the best of all pos-
sible worlds. Rosy Bold refuses
to feel sorry for herself; she
is unwilling to and the novel
is not confessional in tone.
ried for many years to the

poet John Berryman. Clearly,
Berryman - who was famous
not only for his book "Dream
Songs" but for his alcoholism
and personal excesses as well
- serves as the model for Ben-
jamin Bold.
Bold is no ordinary man but
a raging, uncontrollable, irasci-

sake of his art. He is an im-
possible character - people ad-
mit this all through the book
- but his brilliance compels
people to tolerate him, to like
him in spite of his excesses.
One of Rosy's friends re-
marks, "you know, with artists,
it's always difficult and yet


Simpson likens being married to a poet to
marriage with an explorer: "She wishes that
her husband didn't have to go wherever it
is-to the top of Everest or to the bottom
of the Red Sea. There's never any question
of his not going. At the crucial moment
when all his forces are engaged there s a
total breakdown of communication. She can
do nothing but sit it out and pray that he'll
come back safely, whole."
GF° ''Z;f:?.K^ -G"" 7t"r;y::,.g T::i?:i ,"?,rai ::is4C;+"mm";; .""r.^F":"?r,?,,aw.:?i""a ti':??;";S-

ble, driven genius. He is a poet
who lives first for his poems
and then for everything and
everyone else. Benjamin and
Rosy's relationship is complex
not only because of his person-
ality but because he is an art-
ist who sucks people dry for the

The Center for Russian and
East European Studies
is sponsoring a talk by
Dr. Mordeclai Altshuler
Lecturer at the Institute of Contemporary Jewry,
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Monday, Nov. 17-4:00 p.m.'
West Conference Room, Rackham Bldg.

women are always attracted to
them." And for all his raging
manias, his paranoia, his fre-
quent bouts of drinking, Bold
remains a compelling, likeable
man throughout the novel. Im-
pulsive, and childish, Bold nev-
ertheless is possessed of an
abounding vitality that draws
people to him. He is a man
who knocks on friends doors at
four in the morning to read his
poetry - and inevitably leaves
them charmed and amused. Peo-
ple forgive him because he is
a genius.
But, for his wife, the problems
are more difficult. She likens
her marriage to a poet to the
marriage to an explorer: "She
wishes...that her husband didn't
have to go wherever it is - to
the top of Everest or to the bot-
tom of the Red Sea. There is
never any question of his not
going. At the crucial moment,
when all his forces are engaged,
there's a total breakdown in
communication. She can do noth-
ing but sit it out and pray
that he'llcome back whole."
And then wait until nevt time,

A WORD CHILD by Iris Mur- existential bind. They must act;
doch. New York: Viking they must forever make choices
Press,, 575 pp $8.95. which have entirely unforesee-
able consequences for which re-
By DEBRA HURWITZ sponsibility must nevertheless Q..
fRIS MURDOCH'S new novel, be assumed. As a result, there
A Word Child, seems destid is a surfeit of misunderstanding,
AWrChlsesdstinled aaoiadpli ofuin
to prevent its author from con- jMnrdoch's fictional world,
tinuing to bask in the light of
bnggest her past reputation. Known pri- A World Child provides no ex-
Always, waiting is the b manly for such popular novels ception to this rule of Mur-
part of Rosy's life. Waiting for i as Flight from the Enchanter, doch's. Indeed, the characters
the poems to be finished, waiting Under the Net, and so forth, often seem particularly muddled
for him to begin writing, wait- I Iris Murdoch is also a philoso- and even less capable than oth-
ing for him to come home at phy instructor at Oxford who er Murdoch characters of cop-
night. And just as his friends has written a rather good book' ing sensibly and realistically
always forgive him, so does on Sartre. Though all her nov- with the world which surrounds
Rosy - because he is a genius els dabble in existentialism and and presses upon them. Hilary
who lives by different rules than provide plenty of metaphysical aside for the moment, the other
other people, and too, because tidbits for the armchair philoso- characters, often with the best
he has convinced her he cannot pher to chew on, they are more of intentions, consistently pro-
live without her, in the line of the suspenseful voke irreparable, destructive
Her life has become an accom- romance than the philosophical situations. The novel's tragic
odation for Benjamin Bold: her treatise. A Word Child, however, climax is finally more ironic
moods shift with his, her dreams goes out of its way to ponder than tragic for this very rea-
1 revolve around him her life is great metaphysical questions of son. Not only are consequences
spent trying to understand the love and salvation. and repurcussions unforseeable
labyrinth of his mind. There are Hilary Burde, the novel's cen- in Murdoch's world, but actions I isM u d ch
times when Benjamin is warm tral character, is a man sunk often tend to produce the worst
is these times - and the hope in the past, paralyzed by a trag- possible results, regardless of
that they will someday be con- ic mistake once made and never their initial innocence. like a badly assimilated me- novel: it looks and feels insert-
tinuous - that Rosy lives for. forgotten. Originally from the No matter how realistic such lange. Hilary, from whose point ed. Consequently, the novel is
Th nve ufodsinRoegutter, as he often bitterly re- an existential system mayi of view the story is told, is often nary slow-moving and dis-
The novel unfolds in Rome, calls, Hilary once found salva- sound, Murdoch's novel falls given to long, self - indulgent jointed as Hilary picks his way
where the Bolds have come to tion in grammar, in language: far short of plausibility. The philosophical ruminations which throng the litter of his own
relav, sightsee, wait -for the hence the novel's title. Early on characters are stereotyped gro- are ludicrovs, coming as they mind and that of the world
proofs of Benjamin's book, and in his academic career, Hilary tesques, drawn with almost do when he is particularly torn around him.
and receptive and loving and it was accused of reading poetry Westian strokes; any one of by grief, apprehension or nerv-
facts of her marriage. It seems E for nothing more than the gram- them could find plenty about ous tension. Near the middle of ESPITE ITS FAILURE to
to her that she is trapped in a mar; now, years after the trag- which to write to a Miss Lonely- the novel, Hilary muses, "If hang together as a whole
maze "just before closing time." edy which ruined his life, he hearts. Further, the events are only I could separate out that and the general implausibility
She drinks cups of cuppucino lives, not surprisingly, according ordered with a Hardy-esque pre- awful mixture of sin and pain, of its events, A Word Child is
alone in cafes and waits for to rigid forms in a destructive, nonderance of coincidence which if I could only even for a short usually pretty good reading. The
Benjamin. sordid obscurity. His time is serves to make them at best time, even for a moment, suf- questions it deals with are fas-
ssstrictly divided between a pid- improbable. In fact, most of the fer purely without the burden cinating ones: What is the na-
uSe is assivegy submise, dling civil service job which oc- events are not only coincidental, of resentment and self-degrada- ture of punishment, how much
used, - a thoroughly unmoderni cupies his daylight hours, and but so bizarre that they stand tion to which I had deliberately of it is self-inflicted, how much
woman, trapped in a convention- evenings which he has "given" out in highly unlikely relief condemned myself, there might of it deserved, and wherein lies
al role that promises little ful- to the few sad souls of his ac- against the grimy London back- be a place for a miracle ... was forgiveness - in oneself or in
help but empathize with her. not quaintance. The schedule never ground. it all just chaos and accident, the grace of those one has
hepbteptiewt e.B-varies.andiitmtethtIcudwog?
cause there is something enorm- aCrippled by the old tragedy, THE MAJOR DIFFERENCE and did it matter that I could wronged?
ously appealing about genius, H between A Word Child and probably never answer that Further. Murdoch has evoked
articular the kind of exan- hs ple Murdoch's earlier novels is the question?" the icy grime of the London set-
parv tuar ly hiinkfexpn lives of those few people around Iath's preoccupation in this Like Sartre's Roquentin in t ing brilliantly. Hilary's agony
sive, vital genius of somone like him, specifically his ugly, ag- itnovelr' ithreerpiosophil Nausea, Hilary is the sad pos- and the sordid stasis of the lives
Benjamin Bold. ing, golden-eyed sister, the mou- wit overt piosopica sessor of a much overworked and hims are highlightediby
We never lose respect for Rosy sv man who loves her, and Hil- concerns. Murdoch seems deter- uHe i . around him are highlighted by
Bold because her intelligence } ary's own determined mistress. mined to display her philosophic consciousness. e is glaringly little scenic touches; the weath-
and compassion and reasoning The return of the man Hilary bent here; it's as if she felt aware o every pallittle er and setting tend to parallel
make sense within the context wronged by his actions so lon obliged to combine the two uirk ofrhisinr wokns human emotion and event. Hil-
of her own situation. She is ago into the sphere of Hilary's halves-literary and philosophi- er inheres in the fabric of the ary, for example, is forever
trapped for all sorts of reasons; life forms the starting point ofi cal - of her career into one rushing out into the dawn which
also, she eventually finds her this novel. As set up by Mur- book. Perhaps she feels Sartre's is usually "raw and rainy" and
way Outdoch, influence; he too has attempted Paste this inside is always gloomy: even one sun-
way dout. this man s return is Hil- i~ec;h o a tepe
ary's last chance at forgivenessto combine philosophy and fic- your medicine cabinet. ny morning, Hilary remarks to
QIMPSON HAS PLOTTED the a ' tion, much to the detriment of E r Sam su m m s" nu a m It himself,"The dawn was soiled
choronology of the marriage's his last chance to emergefrom bth, into the novel form. Clear - and yellow."
the dark, guilt-racked miser f btitotenvl:om len 1ndylo.
dissolution closely; we never his life, and, most of all his ly, the methods of philosophy As might be uessed from
lose respect for Rosy because land those of fiction differ. It I.!tAs it word seda rma
she decides to leave Benjamin ls he hasbraghed te is of course possible, and even,
only when it becomes apparent er lives he has caused to b desirable, to incorporate philo- theme this novel. Murdoch is
there is no hope for any change as miserable as his own. sial to ino a po interested in the power of words
-sedenowatayoeThroughout the novel, Hilary isopia togt noadok. rT i to create action as well as to
- she does not wait anymore rced to sort out irrelevancies of fiction. Nevertheless, the au- descraibe it. Hilary is a word
once the maze has unwound it- f thor who attempts such a mix w
fefrom that which is relevant toyms chwr ha esh seild): words hoisted him from
self. ms b waetht h/hei-
The MAZE is Simpson's first forgiveness, redemption; he is mustIbefawarewth hesis a Ikthe slough of his childhood into
novel and it is an extraordinari- forced to make choices in an medium which is not congenial a "first" at Oxford; words now
lygo nbt sasu increasingly complex world, miumwihi o ogna protect, his as would a fence
ofl goo ne , bothsas antudychoices which must be made!toseartetlttl esasnitinlevel, but they also lead
o genius, and asta probing lo ts framework. Both Sartreando
at the relationship between one under the onus of pitiably in- Murdoch attempt to include Phil- to harrowing confusion and frus-
man and one woman. complete knowledge.. osophy in their fiction without 1Changeinbowel r tration on another. Words, their
mannwmnsphnter ito itot' I Cag t bwlo ermutations and connotations,
'THIS LAST IS a favorite attempting to assimilate it. Iladder habits, termutnan poer tsrv'ns,
Laura Berman is the former theme of Murdoch's. len Like The Age of Reason or ttheir uncanny power, serveas
D l n y a z E t c a c s l s b i a N a focus i A Word Child.
Daily Sunday Magazine Editor. characters always labor in anI Nausea, A Word. Child reads)r

BAITS-December 1, Monday,. 7:00 PILOT PROGRAM-December 3,
P.M.-Thieme LounqeWednesday, 8:00 P.M.-Newcombe
BURSLEY-December 1, Monday, 7:00 Lounge
P.M.-Resident Advisors-West MARKLEY-December 3, Wednesday,
Dining Room 10:00 P.M.-Dininq Room No. 3
BURSLEY-December 1, Monday. 8:30 WEST QUAD-December 4, Thursday,
P.M.--Resident Directors-West 7:00 P.M.-Dining Room No. 1
Dining Room BARBOUR-December 4, Thursday, 8:00
COUZENS--December 2, Tuesday, 7:00 P.M.-Newberry Living Room
P.M.--Livinq Room NEWBERRY-December 4, Thursday, 8:00
P.M.--Newberry Livinq Room
MOSHER-JORDAN-December 2, Tuesday, RESIDENTIAL COLLEGE-December 4,
8:00 P.M.-Jordan Lounge Thursday, 8:00 P.M.--South Dininq
STOCKWELL-December 2, Tuesday, 9:00 Room
P.M.--Blue Lounge SOUTH QUAD-December 4, Thursday,
9:00 P.M.-West Lounge
OXFORD-December 3, Wednesday, 7:00 FLETCHER-December 4, Thursday,
P.!A.-Seeley Lounge 8:00 P.M.-First Floor Lounge
The above campus-wide informational sessions for prospective staff applicants have been
scheduled to discuss the dimensions and expectations of the various staff positions, how to
apply in the buildings and/or house.s, who to contact, criteria to be used in the selection
procedure and the number of positions that are likely to be vacant,
1500 S.A.B.

"He's breathtaking"
S.F. Chronicle
"FANTASTIC . . . from
Jazz, to Rock, to R & B,
with the execution that has
rightfuly e ar n ed him a
reputation as one of the
best guitarists in the
Zoo World
"Coryell is amazing . . .
Nothing short of briliant.
And h i s creativity seem-
ingly unending"
Melody Maker
"He is the most consistent-
ly inventive and interest-
ing instrumentalist in pop"
Stereo Review

}$A MUSKET Presents
December 4 -8:00 p.m.
Saturday Mat. 2:00 p.m.
Mendelssohn Theatre
Tickets on sale now at UAC Ticket Central
For more information call 763-1107
A dvertising
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advertising (i.e. theory and prerequisites).
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Child is a disappointment.
It is diverting and it can boast
some excellent dramatic mo-
ments, but it fails to stand up
under the strain of the inappro-
nriate and unassimilated philo-
soph cal weight with which Mur-
doch has, unfortunately, chosen
to burden it.
Debra Hurwitz is The Daily's
Assistant Editorial Director.
Have a flair for
artistic writing?
If you are interest-
ed in reviewti;i
Poetry, and music
or writing feature
stories a b o ui t the
drama~, dance, film
arts:! Contact Arts
E d i t or, c/o The
Michigan Daily.

by William Shakespeare
Directed by
Nicholas Pennell
Guest Artist-in-Residence i .

This Coming TUESDAY, Nov. 18-Criser Arena, 8 p.m.

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