A Severed Head is a Kindle Extraordinarily funny lean novel that somehow manages to be completely cynical while maintaining a belief in the possibility of love The plot is hurtlingly insane as the
A Severed Head is a Kindle Extraordinarily funny, lean novel that somehow manages to be completely cynical while maintaining a belief in the possibility of love. The plot is hurtlingly insane, as the lead, Martin Lynch-Gibbon, and the 5 most important people in his life form an improbable love-hexagon whose Freudian complications are legion. The protagonist knows the least of anyone, which is always fun, and though his behavior throughout the book is repellent, Murdoch accomplishes the difficult task of making him likable, mostly through the parodist stiff-upper-lip way he approaches the dissolution of his marriage, his affair, his family, his crush, and his (marvelously concealed except for one glimmering line) gay crush. The writing is often amazing, generous. Martin's wine-selling co-workers, for example, are completely non-important to the plot, but they are described as such:"Mytten was a Roman Catholic, a sybarite, and an ass, but he was loyal and a decent judge of wine, and went down splendidly with my more snobbish clientele...(The secretaries) had been with me for some years now and I had been very worried in case one or other of them should take it into her head to get married , until the day when I realized, through some imperceptible but cumulative gathering of impressions, that they were a happy and well-suited Lesbian couple...Their faces and attitudes expressed their respective modes of sympathy: tall air Miss Hernshaw, long vainly courted by the imperceptive Mytten, swaying moist-eyed and ready to hold my hand, short dark Miss Seelhaft, frowning with concern as she polished her spectacles, darting me glances of brisk commiseration."This is pyrotechnic craft, Murdoch indulging herself in the name of some deep understanding of why we are reading her. These characters don't matter to the book, but they make it come alive all the same. The novel has its small experimental flourishes as well - there is a wonderful sequence of unsent letters, and this is the best line break I've ever seen, during a fight between Martin and his mistress."'When you took me to Hereford Square,' said Georgie, 'you took me through the looking glass. There's no going back now. I've had enough of having things around that I'm afraid to think of.''Well I'm not going to introduce you to Antonia, and that's that.''Antonia, this is Georgie Hands. Georgie, my wife.' I found these incredible words passing my lips. I was able to speak without stammering or choking. No one fainted."It's difficult to talk about this book without spoiling it, because beyond the writing, the plot is nuts. 6 characters are treated generously and with abandon. Honor Klein, in particular, is an absolute wild card, who has a sort of mystic dance scene with a samurai sword and some napkins that I will never forget. I see some negative attention being paid to this book by other Goodreads reviewers, and I was not surprised. The novel falls into the book-club trap, when characters are assessed as if they are real people, and their bad behavior (and everyone is so very, very bad) can seem a disappointment. Martin is a shiftless, lying, mostly dumb cad who commits physical violence against women, the kind of lead you will never see in a book in 2017. But Murdoch is a master, and she has created something more real than our expectations of reality. In this, A SEVERED HEAD reminds me a bit of Magic Mountain - each character has a personal philosophy, and they will follow it into oblivion. Beautiful, beautiful ending too, with an amazing last paragraph.My only complaints: too many descriptions of light, and too many uses of the word "golden." I'll live.. As macabre as a Jacobean tragedy, as frivolous as a Restoration comedy, Iris Murdoch s fifth novel takes sombre themes adultery, incest, castration, violence and suicide and yet succeeds in making of them a book that is brilliantly enjoyable.. Good Kindle A Severed Head I had no patience for this. I appreciate the prose style, and can see that Murdoch makes important statements on sexual liberation, but... It is tiring. All characters are equally unsympathetic, and their lives form a panorama of sexual behaviours that challenged the bourgeois minds in 1976 for sure. They all consistently made me think of Caravaggio's Medusa, with her outraged expression of injustice done to her while her snake-hair is still dangerously alive and capable of causing major damage to others. Definitely not very likable, but beautifully painted. What are they? Victims? Perpetrators? Both? Or just hollow, shallow marionettes carrying out a danse macabre that has lost its charm after decades of sexual over-stimulation in media, art and literature?Or maybe just not relevant to me at this moment in time? Possible. This was my first Iris Murdoch, and I suspect I expected more, as my prejudice was that she is one of the great modern writers. I won't drop my carefully built idea (based on nothing tangible) until I have read at least one or two more. She clearly can write.But not necessarily the kind of novel I get excited about.