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Florence in Words

An Apology: Sandy, Surgery, and the Cancelled Feminist Press Gala

To you who read my blog, I apologize for the long silence. I cannot really explain why I never wrote even to say that my apartment was untouched by the storm, since so many friends elsewhere in the U.S. and from Europe, Asia, and Africa wrote to ask whether I, too, was homeless. No, that was not my problem. Yes, the large shrubs on the deck were damaged, some pots shattered, but they were mostly still alive. And then my dear friends, Don and Jorge, and their Maltese, Yoya, came to visit for three days until their electricity was restored, and so I had the wonderful company of beloved people who shopped and cooked and who repotted my damaged shrubs and even my house plants. Read More 
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Blog: 1963 Iris Murdoch essay on The Unicorn, continued, part three

Note to Iris Murdoch readers: This is the end of the essay I wrote nearly 50 years ago. I will be working on Doris Lessing for the next two months, but I will be glad to interrupt that work to respond to comments about this essay. Read More 
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1963 Murdoch essay on The Unicorn, continued, part two

[Note: When I wrote this in 1963, it was common to refer to a woman writer as “Miss, and to use the generic “man.” Sorry, but this is a “relic,” and for the moment at least, I’ve decided not to modernize it.]

Man’s freedom is never so simply and so hilariously accomplished. In The Bell, Miss Murdoch’s fourth novel, Dora instinctively protects and then frees a red butterfly at the expense of losing her luggage, her husband’s best Spanish hat, and his scholar’s note-book. The reader finds the scene immediately amusing, but with ironic overtones, for Dora is unaware of her relationship to the red butterfly.  Read More 
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From Murdoch to Lessing

Those of you who have been looking for more on Murdoch may be disappointed that, though I’ve read two more novels (Henry and Cato; Nuns and Soldiers), and have only one more to go (The Word Child); and though I’ve found the essay I wrote in 1963 on The Unicorn (and really on the first six novels that preceded it), I’m moving to Doris Lessing in order to contribute to a Canadian book being put together to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of The Golden Notebook. So I am rereading relevant Lessing in October and will write the essay in November.

For those of you who would like to see the 1963 essay on The Unicorn, I’ll begin typing it here right now, and if it’s appealing, let me know, and I’ll go on with it. Read More 
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Memory, or how reading Iris Murdoch and Doris Lessing have made me think about it again

I am headed from the kitchen through the living room to the bedroom on a specific mission, but when I get there, I’ve forgotten why I came—just for a second—and then I remember that I want to pick up my iPhone which I had parked last night on its charger which rests atop a radio clock that stands on a table beside my bed. Is this occurrence ominous?  Read More 
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Iris Murdoch’s The Message to the Planet

The 23rd novel read; only Bruno’s Dream and Nuns and Soldiers remain. And I still have no purpose in mind; only the pleasure of each novel, especially in Iris’ ability to surprise even when the reader may know the pattern. While there are patterns—I knew, for example, that the large figure at the center of this novel, has to die before its pages close—they are not easily predictable, if at all.  Read More 
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A Brief Visit to Taiwan

Misnamed: I didn’t “visit.” I attended and spoke at three-day conference in Taipei, joined a one-day bus tour, and went to a museum, the morning of my last day. Still, I learned two lessons. First, and something I really knew but ignored: never travel half-way around the world, where the time difference is 12 or 13 hours, for less than two weeks.  Read More 
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Nine and a Half Turkish Lira

Yesterday I couldn’t imagine what made my handbag so heavy, and today I found hidden in it nine handsome Turkish liras and one slightly smaller marked “50,” indicating half a lira. And immediately I thought, I must want to return. Silly? Probably so, but the response is also an indication of how remarkable I found the trip, and for many reasons. After a bus tour of Northern Scotland some ten years ago, I had eschewed bus or “group” trips altogether. What changed my mind about trying again was the label Smith College: Smithies, I reasoned quite sanely, wouldn’t accept boring. And Smithies were themselves not likely to be boring. It was not much of a gamble, therefore, as I look back on my decision to take it on, despite my age and knees. Read More 
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More Iris Murdoch: Jackson’s Dilemma and The Red and the Green

Last week, for the first time, I was in the middle of three Iris Murdoch novels at once: The Red and the Green (1965), The Good Apprentice (1975) and Jackson’s Dilemma (1985). I didn’t plan the dates—all was “accidental” (the quotation marks in honor of Iris). Because I was to make two separate train trips to Washington, D.C. within two weeks, I selected two paperbacks I could carry—the ones twenty years apart. And once again I seem to need a useless paragraph to get to the heart of what I want to say about Iris. Read More 
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Iris Murdoch Again: The Philosopher’s Pupil

Yes, I’m still stuck on her, still continuing to read novel after novel. I actually bought five used hard covers in the Strand Bookstore (in person), and then decided that I needed them in paperback so that I could take at least four with me to Turkey in June, and so I found those at Powell’s (online). Now I am missing only a few. Read More 
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