Thursday, July 26, 2012

Marry, our play is, the most lamentable comedy,

I about two-thirds of the way through #58, Under the Net by Iris Murdoch.  It counts itself of a member of the large group of books from this list that I have never heard of, which means I knew nothing about it before I started.  Well I am happy to report that it is a great read.  I had mentioned in my previous post that it reminds me of The Berlin Stories, which I suppose would continue to be true, as I find myself truly wrapped up in the characters and the setting (in this case, post-war London and Paris).

But now that I have read so much more of the book, I now find its closest relative to be Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis.  Under the Net features the hapless Jake Donaghue who is innocent, unlucky, and lovable all at the same time, exactly the same way I found Amis' Jim Dixon.  I think the reason I find these characters so extraordinarily entertaining is because they themselves are so thoroughly un-extraordinary.  Neither man has done anything particularly remarkable and neither man finds himself in especially unique circumstances; they're both just regular blokes, and I'm reading about their amusing adventures.  It's great entertainment.

While I had heard that Lucky Jim was a comedy more or less, I had never heard anything of the sort regarding Under the Net.  And for whatever reason, I was not expecting anything that would make me laugh.  Perhaps the title threw me off, but I can't think why.  While the words 'under' and 'net' don't have me thinking comedy, nor do they have me thinking grim or depressing.  To furhter my prejudice, when I picked the novel up from the library, I was introduced to Ms. Murdoch herself with a photo on the back cover.  I don't know if some kind of zany expression or a kooky costume would better represent comedy, but the author's photo does not prepare me for laughter.  In fact, it led me, more so than the title, to think that this would be a deep, serious, and let's face it, bummer of a novel.  But I suppose this goes to show that you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover.

Iris Murdoch, Wacky Author

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