Iris and Her Friends: A Memoir of Memory and Desire (Windsor Selection)

Bayley, John

Published by Chivers, 2000
ISBN 10: 075401424X / ISBN 13: 9780754014249
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Synopsis: Nothing in the literary world has been as startling as the spotlight shone on the 74-year-old Oxford don John Bayley, whose New York Times best-selling Elegy for Iris has spoken to readers the world over about suffering, sacrifice, and love. With this new memoir, the life story of this extraordinary partnership is deepened. John Bayley began writing Iris and Her Friends late at night, while his wife, the novelist Iris Murdoch, succumbed to the terminal stages of Alzheimer's Disease. In a Proustian irony, as Iris is losing her memory, Bayley is flooded with long-buried memories of his own--an inverse relationship that has created literature of the most extraordinary resonance. Eschewing the gloom associated with his family tragedy, Bayley luminously brings to life the remarkable story of a philosopher whose novels celebrated the goodness of everyday existence. In bursts of vivid, lyrical reverie, Bayley also recreates the unforgettable scenes of his youth: being born to a civil servant in colonial India; his epiphanic childhood vacations at the seaside English resort Littlestone-on-Sea, which gave him his first, important glimmers of adult consciousness; his discovery of the power of literature, especially the work of Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Bowen, and Marcel Proust; and of course his long, heartbreaking romance with Iris. This is the transcendent work of a modest, generous, utterly brilliant man, whose deep examinations of his own life--both its tragedies and its joy--will give readers the same healing insight as did its remarkable predecessor. John Bayley's Iris and Her Friends will endure as nothing less than a classic of true love and sorrow.

Review: Novelist Iris Murdoch died in 1999 after a three-year battle with Alzheimer's disease. Her husband, writer John Bayley, who wrote movingly of the impact of her illness in Elegy for Iris, tells in this book of the final year of his wife's life, when she was visited more by her own imaginary "friends" than by the exigencies of real life. In Iris and Her Friends, Bayley recalls his own increasingly precarious hold on reality and subsequent breakdown, Murdoch's final happy weeks in a home for the terminally ill, and finally her quiet death. Although closely linked to Elegy, Iris and Her Friends focuses more on Bayley's experience of Murdoch's illness: the memories he discovered just as his wife lost her own--of his childhood, his army years and first loves, and of their long marriage. One of Bayley's "friends" is a subject he holds dear: "The old Eng. Lit. again. I taught it for nearly fifty years and feel detached from it now." Nonetheless, literature emerges here as the one remaining constant in his life. Scarcely two pages go by without a reference, almost involuntary, to Hardy, Coleridge, Austen, Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Thurber, James, Lawrence, Woolf--or Murdoch. Sometimes Murdoch appears to respond to the shared literary in-jokes, but more often the pair are like "two animals pushing together, nudging and grooming each other, grunting together as they bask in a mutual doze." This is an incredibly intimate glimpse into a personal life, but as Bayley tellingly observes: "There is a surreal sense in which Alzheimer's has turned Iris herself into art. She is my Iris no longer, but a person in the public domain." --Alan Stewart, Amazon.co.uk

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Title: Iris and Her Friends: A Memoir of Memory and...
Publisher: Chivers
Publication Date: 2000
Book Condition: Good
Edition: Lrg.

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