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Edward Baltram is a twenty year old college student living in London Maybe one day he will become a writer He has a friend a very good friend named Mark Edward gives Mark a sandwich dripped with hallucinogenic drugs Then a girlfriend or rather a girl he hopes will one day become his girlfriend calls So what does he do He closes the door to his room where Mark is sleeping knocked out by the drug and pops out to the girl s place Delight delight she too is looking for sex Half an hour later he is back in his room The window is open Mark has umped There he is down below dead on the pavement Edward becomes terribly depressed Mark s mother sends him threatening letters She is going to murder him This is the start of a long tale of introspection Edward is one of several who search for understanding of themselves All of Murdoch s books have elements you begin to recognize the of her books you read They all focus on character portrayal and human relationships The reader is uickly introduced to a handful or two of characters all interconnected in complicated ways One must pay close attention at the start one needs to grab as many details as possible No character is irrelevant each turns up in different situations and has a specific role to play By the end of the book you know them all very well Extramarital homosexual and or bisexual relationship pepper every story There is usually a magical mystical component here we have a poltergeist and a medium capable of talking to spirits At least one person always dies and spooky suspenseful scenes take place There are always atmospheric descriptions of landscapes gardens and houses and detailed descriptions of characters appearances Either the sea or a river or a flooded fen and a meeting where all the characters come together are elements of all Murdoch s stories You begin to smile when the same ingredients pop up again and again in her books The repetition becomes somewhat predictable and boring too This book has all of the above I spoke of complicated relationships What do you think of this Edward has lived his entire life with his stepfather and stepbrother His mother was pregnant with another man s child when she married Edward s stepfather Edward is that fetus in his mother s belly His mother dies when he is seven He scarcely remembers her and doesn t know his biological father Midge his mother s younger sister is the closest he gets to this mother s familySome of the relationships in this novel are in my opinion too extreme Midge s love view spoilerfor Stuart Edward s stepbrother hide spoiler So after years of hearing about her murkily if admiringly I now realize I have finally dived in Murdoch isawful What s worse she is awful in all the things she lavishes so much care or at least pages on so that it doesn t feel like an accident with better novels awaiting me Take Jungian archetypes the elvish sisters the wizardly men the Death portents in human form the innocent hero on a uest the evil stepmothers stir them into a soap opera plot of crises coincidence and constant talk and you haveThe Good Apprentice The improbability of it all wouldn t matter if Murdoch weren t so intent on working out uestions of motive and power Excruciating because her psychological insight is puddle deep I read on and on out of incredulity something big was bound to happen to ustify the unremitting buildup So I will give Murdoch credit for plotting She keeps you reading first with hope then with desperation and finally with comic fury THE GOOD APPRENTICE was published in 1985 yet it feels both older and modern It intertwines Victorian roots with a contemporary sense of unforced farce Like in a Victorian melodrama the characters are impossibly entangled in each others lives Edward Baltram is the love child of Jesse Beltram renowned avant garde artist and Chloe Warriston one of Jesse s favored young models Tragic pregnant Chloe is spurned by Jesse before the child is even born marries Harry Cuno and dies when Edward is around seven Harry s own son Stuart is about four years older than Edward and is the offspring of Harry and his first wife Teresa deceased Meanwhile Jesse has remained with his wife May Barnes and produced two daughters Ilona and Bettina Chloe s younger sister Midge Warriston is married to a prominent psychotherapist named Thomas McCorkerville who is best friends with Edward s stepfather Harry Thomas and Midge have one son Meredith who idolizes Harry s son Stuart Got all that I found it useful to draw a family tree to keep these entanglements straight Nor is this the end of it As the story progressed so many other surprising connections emerged that my notes became a sea of exclamation points Yet somehow Murdoch persuaded me to accept this unlikely state of affairs in the service of the subjective and self assured speculations that could only occur within a familial circle Victorian melodrama is also a major plot element The exposition of a clandestine love affair is voiced in breathless hyperbolic declarations I m starving I want you in my house I want it to be your home I want you forever p88 89 And I love you so much I feel your kisses all the time all our touchings all our oys are about me like a net I nearly swooned with desire during that dinner party when I sit alone at home and think about you I could bite my hands off p90 Yes it s the 20th century and he says swooned Murdoch even throws in a s ance She describes it from Edward s point of view Her prose carries such conviction that any skepticism on the part of the reader is not ust stifled but rendered irrelevant In Part 2 Murdoch draws on the Gothic novel with eual adroitness Seegard Jesse s abode is set in semi draws on the Gothic novel with eual adroitness Seegard Jesse s abode is set in semi a landscape constantly being reshaped by the weather He was walking upon a black sinewy surface springy underfoot and less muddy Then as he looked trying to see a way the light changed the sun was clouded and the water in front of him became dark almost black He stopped and looked back "Seegard Upon Which The Sun "upon which the sun shone was already far away now seen to be upon a slight eminence As Edward turned about straining his eyes he was suddenly removed as if his surroundings had been uickly erked upward He did not sink but fell abruptly vertically as the surface beneath his feet gave way and his legs descended into two watery holes p116 117 Murdoch never descends into clich Edward politely praises a tapestry based on one of Jesse s designs It s beautiful But he found it like the painting in his own room rather distressing p 111 A lesser author might have sprung for disturbing The nuance the suggestiveness keeps this novel afloatThe story opens with an innocent prank gone wrong Edward slips a hallucinogen into his strait laced roommate Mark Wilsden s sandwich He imagined he was opening up new vistas of experience for Mark whom he practically worshipped Mark falls into blissful sleep Edward slips out to meet up with a girl named Sarah Plowmain whose mother knew May Barnes Jesse s wife He loses track of time rushes back to the apartment and finds that Mark had gotten up and umped out the window to his death The reader is led to believe that the remainder of the book will be a dense examination of Edward s moral responsibility for the tragedy Edward is overcome by feelings of guilt and depression The tragedy however is a McGuffin a catalyst for a series of events eliciting shifting subjective viewpoints From this unpromising beginning Murdoch actually provoked me to laugh out loud when a series of coincidences and mistakes come to a head in Part 2 Seegard No doubt there is much philosophical nuance in this novel After all she was a fellow at Oxford where she taught philosophy This is the first book I have read by this author and I found it easier however to sit back and enjoy her characters and careful writing At a dinner party shortly after the tragedy Harry tries to console his step son with a stiff upper lip harangue Edward looked at Harry or glanced at him with an expression of faint wincing distaste huddled himself into his chair and resumed gazing into the corner of the room p16 No sentence could better convey this particular character at this particular momentThis book was the selection of my local book club Iris Murdoch studies The Good Apprentice 10 minutes1 To what genre would you assign The Good Apprenticea Philosophyb Religious allegoryc Literary pastiched Slice of lifee Chicklit2 Following the principles. A sly witty and beautifully orchestrated tale about the difficulty of being good Edward Baltram is overwhelmed with guilt His nasty little prank has gone horribly wrong he has fed his closest friend a sandwich laced with a hallucinogenic drug and the young man has fallen out of a window to his death Consumed with guilt Edward. ,
Described in his 1945 essay how do you think George Orwell would have classified this novela A bad good bookb A good bad bookc A good good bookd A bad bad booke Fucked if I know I d rather go and futilely risk my life again in Catalonia3 What is the relationship between this book and Metaphysics as a Guide to Moralsa Abandoned first draftb All the bits she couldn t fit in anywhere elsec Movie scriptd Exercises and work What a load of hogwash Yeah that s what went through my mind every time one of these awful and self absorbed characters went off on a pseudo intellectual solilouy about their latest unbelievable drama Oh and the italics They were simply dreadful and overused and distracting Every other word was in italics I didn t like any of the characters Not a single one I felt bad for Stuart because everybody hated him and told him so and he was the only one who showed a shred of decency I still didn t like him much It was very difficult to finish this book but after you put in 400 pages or so you sort of have to you know And the ending What All that long drawn out craziness tied up with a few letters Lazy Then it kept the book from being 1000 pages so I ll take it I ve heard good things about Iris Murdoch I sincerely hope this mess was an anomaly I m going to try a different book I expect you will have heard by now that I am going to marry Giles Brightwalton We have known and loved each other for ages but Giles kept thinking he was really homosexualOh Iris you re so nuts I enjoyed this but it was a bit overwrought and1 I thought Harry didn t come across as very sexy at all At one point he was wearing a red bowtie with a black leather acket2 When was this supposed to be set3 Folloing on from 2 if you re a millionaire in Thatcher s Britain and you re not thinking about the morality of being a millionaire in Thatcher s Britain who are you Iris s millionaires timeless what is good are we being good uestions are adorable but peope are dying in the streets of Brixton Toxteth Belfast Tottenham South Yorkshire etc 4 It drags a bit at the end We know this from the cover blurbs and from the first few pages Edward the main character is a young man a college student living in London He gives his best friend a sandwich laced with LSD as a oke The friend falls to his death from a window Edward s guilt comes to shape his whole life plunging him into a debilitating depression worsened by weekly letters from his friend s mother cursing him as a murderer Edward s mother is dead and he returns home where he lives with his father and a younger brother Their lives are complicated too as his father is having an affair with a married woman the wife of Edward s psychiatrist and his brother is socially and intellectually withdrawn from the world shunning sex and alcohol His brother is dedicated to somehow doing good and helping people becoming like a priest or a monk but without believing in God That brother takes on Edward as a kind of project People tell Edward he has to learn to live with his responsibility for his friend s death but he thinks but I can t live with this I can only die with it except that I don t die The reader may think that both young men need a good woman to help straighten them out but how will they attract anyone in their current situations The blurbs tell us in so many words that Edward is seeking redemption and his brother is seeking salvation With advice from a psychiatrist and a fortune teller Edward goes off to find his biological father at one time a somewhat famous artist Edward finds his father s wife and two half sisters he never met living almost in isolation in a cult like four person commune His father is away and will arrive shortly So weeks later where is he There s a heavy dose of philosophy in all this Murdoch was a philosophy professor at Cambridge In the course of one dinner conversation we can touch on everything from the ancient Greeks and geometry to nuclear war terrorism pornography and artificial intelligence There are many good lines and humor Just a couple As Edward found these words emerging from his mouth he felt a thrill of fright as if the words were actually little animals which had leapt out of his mouth and were now running about The head waiter had noticed the incidentHis contempt for his clients was impartial The social network portrayed in the story is so dense that touching it anywhere affects everyone else So when the couple having the affair is found out and the wife says Let s not get in a muddle her lover can say That s your funniest remark yet The affair occupies almost as much of the book as Edward s incident Watch what you wish for Can a woman fall head over heels in love with a man for ust two weeks And I m reminded of a book by Anita Brookner can you really fall in love with someone you almost despise There s a wonderful love letter from the man to the woman trying to win her back that is a classic There are many surprising plot twists and several amazing coincidences Murdoch has been dinged by some critics for her bizarre plot twists You get the impression that the author is toying with us because the coincidences aren t all necessary to the plot someone could have called and said I m coming to town and I d like to see you rather than running into someone by accident But the coincidences are the author s way of showing the real life impact of chance Just a few pages from the end of the book Edward reflects In a way it s all a muddle starting off with an accident my breakdown drugs telepathy my father s illness cloistered neurotic women people arriving unexpectedly all sorts of things which happened by pure chance At so many points anything being otherwise could have made everything be otherwise I m reminded of a uote attributed to Joseph Conrad It is the mark of an inexperienced man not to believe in luck There are also some shocking surprises And Sinner's Heart just as in real life some things that people predict come true and some don t That s another way the author toys with the reader contrary to theater parlance the loaded gun shown in the first act may never go off There s also a bit almost of the supernatural Hallucinations perhaps due to Edwards past drug use the fortune teller poltergeists In one of Murdoch s books she has a flying saucer appear in the distance Somehow the author gets away with it and leaves us with a great read It s a dense complicated plot and it s fitting that the end of the book is a series of letters resolving everyone s status and straightening out loose ends It s also a fairly long book the paperback edition I read had 520 pages of small font without which it would have been a 700 page bookThe Good Apprentice was nominated for the Booker Prize in 1985 The critic Harold Bloom listed The Good Apprentice in his 1994 book The Western Canon as one of the books important and influential in Western culture Murdoch can be considered an Irish author even though she grew up in and went to school in England And all of this story is set in England She was born in Ireland and both her parents were Irish I m adding it to my favorites Photo of London streets from unsplashcomThe author from curtisbrowncouk five or six perspective characters all from very close third POV usually introduced by a long passage of dialog without hardly any tags like he said or she slapped himust a segue of blank space on the page a preface to set the scene and then four of five pages of solid dialog followed by five or ten pages of intricate internal "monologshe s crazy good at giving a sense of distinct characters changing states of mind
does some wild with "s crazy good at giving a sense of distinct characters changing states of mind and does some wild acrobatics with twists and convergences where many thru lines combine in one scene leaves me breathlessand her plots are pretty good too people kill people lie people die people run away and hide people love and fuck and fight it s no surprise she s a philosopher too bad she s dead oh well whatever It would take a very bold impertinent critic to say that any of Iris Murdoch s mature novels was best Nonetheless I ll risk that audacity and give first place to The Black Prince and The Sea the Sea closely followed by this one Murdoch is not ust a superlative master of English prose but of Englishness and how is that to be summarised hearts of oak with shiftily variable foliage Deceit and ambiguity are built into the language and here at its most subtle oy and grief love and hatred tragedy and comedy are barely inseparable That Experiences a debilitating crisis of conscience While Edward torments himself for not being good his stepbrother Stuart a brilliant mathematics student uits his promising scholastic career to live like a monk devoting himself to the difficult task of becoming good As Stuart seeks salvation Edward searches for redemption throug.And Does Some Wild
free read The Good ApprenticeThink is the point of Murdoch perhaps the most serious and intelligent woman of the twentieth century but it s not an easy one to understand as witnessed by uite a few other reviews here which badly miss the comic aspect in the desire to interpret it as literal The tale is trivial enough a very young man under the weight of self imposed guilt a curiously Anglo Saxon emotional state presupposing an imagined sense of blame without the intention of doing anything about it except making a show of self laceration goes in search of his artist father though the artistry is not much in evidence to a remote madhouse in the possession of a trio of very strange women two of them his half sisters in the drably flat perpetually clouded landscape of East Anglia Not too much literary detective work is necessary to see that all this is loosely based on the legend of Augustus John who scattered progeny and discarded but adoring women all over the place and who in Murdoch s youth was a powerful legend indeed for aspiring bohemians Are the mysterious women saints or monsters They revere and are in fear of their distant lord and master who they never see without really liking him and their existences are those of obsessive neurotics endlessly cleaning and carrying their domestic objects up and down flights of stairs and concocting ghastly meals They both welcome and unconsciously desire their revenge on the guilt stricken hero as a male What seriously disturbs this pattern convenient to all the participants is the intrusion on his part of an unconnected young woman with whom he supposes he is in love In fact she is uite ordinary and rather stupid such is the magic enchantment of infatuation another important recurring theme in Murdoch s novels The authoress is at this stage faced with the impossible uestion of how to conclude what in literature has to appear to be a complete picture easy enough for a painter or composer never so in a novel She takes the usual or perhaps only way out in English which can hardly ever escapes a moralising undertone a sort of vague spiritual redemption or catharsis in the language of psychoanalysis of which Murdoch disapproved reducing the father to a senile old man conventionally convincing and satisfying enough if not necessarily true A masterly exercise in truly uniue and original style enormous sophistication and a profound knowledge of the infinite vagaries of the human heart where something that verges on being ludicrous takes on the force of a myth sufficient to dispel incredulity and in which story telling poetry farce philosophy or even religion all merge 45 starsAs with The Philosopher s Pupil the novel Iris Murdoch wrote before this one The Good Apprentice begins with a dramatic scene involving the accidental death of the beloved friend of Edward Baltram our main character resulting in an immense guilt that consumes him He falls into depression and after friends and family failed attempts to console him ends up at the home of his estranged artist father in the English Fens where he spends much of the book alternately confused and bewitched by its inhabitants and their lifestyle At the same time his father Harry stepbrother Stuart and a variety of other characters live their life in London with the usual Murdoch dramas and life crises about love betrayal faith and religionIt s clear from the opening chapters that Edward s family is a convoluted one and as the novel progresses this becomes ever clearer There are several instances of instantaneous love where the stress of events causes one character to cling to another while other characters analyze their behavior for them sympathetically and otherwise and there are many pages of overwrought love declarations passionate denials and emotional rollercoasters that tip our sympathies one way and then anotherEdward himself tumbles from depression to elation to confusion and back again and ultimately he is a compelling character to follow Unlike many Murdoch novels there are no truly dislikable inhabitants in the novel and many of them suffer heartbreak or a deep struggle of some kind whether they be male or female There are some wonderful cameos from a psychic Edward sees to Mr Blinnet Thomas s crazy not crazy client Sarah s mother Elspeth with her brusue feminism and Willy a Professor who gets teary eyed every time someone mentions camels as his father was killed by one and who believes in salvation by Proust Then there are Edwards family "In Seegard Who Are Especially "Seegard who are especially with the three women described alternately as cloistered princesses in a castle waiting for a knight elf maidens or taboo holy women Perhaps that is the effect of the house and its surroundings which are drawn so beautifully especially the secret grotto where the lingam stone stands and the misty fens that surround the property Edward spends a lot of his time there confused as to what is real and at the end of the novel much of went on there is still unclearAt the same time in London conversations often turn to topics that twenty four years later are still current computers nuclear war and the environment and it seems both ironic and prescient listening to the discussion about computers as Gods and lines such as children now are brought up on computers not books that s part of the trouble There is humor in the book particularly in the drawing room scenes Murdoch excels at Harry in particular comes out with some sweeping generalizations about women and love morality and science while trying to bamboozle Midge or Stuart into making decisions about their lives he is a sometimes overwhelming force of nature but pales into comparison against the enigmatic and Godlike Jesse
stuart himself ishimself is complex character whose cognitive meanderings can sometimes get tiresome but who you ultimately feel compassion for as his sufferings about morality faith and purpose get pushed aside by his brother and father s dramas and who is constantly either berated by everyone or having things thrown at him in frustrationThe women of the novel range from maidens to mystics feminists and housewives and are eually compelling from the perfectly attired but bored Midge to the frumpy but intelligent Brownie and the fragile but beguiling llona They have a greater voice in this novel than many of the other Murdoch novels I have read and although suffering as much as the men have as much if not strength to carry on and get on with their lives even if those lives are difficult Although the men may appear to have all the force and charisma in the novel it is the women who have the power to udge condemn and forgive With such a cast of characters this is a convoluted and compelling book with the usual beautiful and thoughtful writing I ve come to expect from Iris Murdoch as well as occasional mind taxing philosophizing and a mix of love tragedy and humor Edward himself seems to make an attempt at describing it by the end of the novel At so many points anything being otherwise could have made everything be otherwise In another way it s a whole complex thing internally connected like a dark globe a dark world as if we were all parts of a single drama living inside a work of art The book may not uite be a dark world but it is a very human oneSome favorite lines Only Edward could not cry properly not as he had seen girls cry in gushing pouring streams His tears came forth painfully as a small and healthless dew Happiness that s what life s about it s your ob to be happy not to spread gloom and despair all round Don t be so selfish Get your courage back get your narcissism back get your myth back straighten your spine and believe in yourself again Sometimes because of a catastrophe a bereavement or some total loss of self esteem our falsehoods become pernicious and we are forced to choose between some painful recognition of truth and an ever frenzied and aggressive manufacturing of lies The sun was shining and the day had established itself as a warm summer day a London summer day with a London light and dustiness and haze of green trees and resonance of sound and emergence of colour which can seem according to one s mood so genial and festive and full of spacious celebration or so stifling and oppressive and full of ghostly nostalgia With a demonic accuracy the pain of ealousy had been added now to all the others Jealousy lasts forever Bad news for the young The idea of goodness is romantic opium it s a killer in the end. H a reunion with his famous father the reclusive painter Jesse Baltram Funny and compelling The Good Apprentice first published in 1986 is at once a supremely sophisticated entertainment and an inuiry into the spiritual crises that afflict the modern worldFirst published in the United States of America by Viking Penguin Inc 19.