Sunday, March 29, 2009

IRIS MURDOCH AS I KNEW HER by A. N. Wilson

One of the more amusing British literary dust-ups of recent years began when A.N. Wilson was duped into including in his book on John Betjeman a forged letter purportedly written by the poet. The forgery became known when someone pointed out that the first letters of several sentences in the letter, taken in order of appearance, spelled out the phrase "A.N. WILSON IS A SHIT."

Having read Wilson's memoir of Iris Murdoch, I wonder if the real perpetrator of this hoax was not the spirit of Dame Iris acting from beyond the grave. Wilson's idea of 'setting the record straight' about his late friend is to accuse her of being a Soviet agent, an accusation based on the author's 'feeling' and the hearsay of an unidentified 'friend.' Well, friends don't accuse friends of high treason. (That privilege is usually reserved for relatives.) And with posthumous friends like the twitty, unintentionally comic Wilson, who needs enemas? Iris Murdoch As I Knew Her, a memoir pushingly egotistical even in its title, is wholly scurrilous and would surely have been actionable were its subject still alive. And yet it's also rather enjoyable, albeit in a sleazy, take-a-long-bath-after-reading kind of way. A very strange book by a very odd man about a very interesting woman who clearly eludes his grasp.

2 comments:

adevotedreader said...

I read the Iris trilogy by John Bayley, and then for comparison started Wilson's. I found it so appalling I stopped. A scurrilous book and an odd man is right!

Mohka.co.uk said...

I thought it was an intriguing read.
Mark @ Mohka.co.uk