THE GOOD APPRENTICE by Iris Murdoch
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THE GOOD APPRENTICE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The 'myth' that heals is an individual work of art."" In Murdoch's latest scoring of immobile saints and thrumming sinners, psychiatrist Thomas McCasketville, another philosopher/Prospero--locus of a circle of jittery psyches--treats two young men, urging on one to the myth that heals. In the light of day, Edward Baltram--who (negligently) caused his friend Mark's death--and Edward's half-brother, Stuart, a (maddeningly motionless) static Seeker after a ""godless"" Good, are most irritating young men. But Murdoch's soul-dredging bumblers are seldom seen in the light of day, shadowed as they are by flashes of metaphysical/psychical speculation, and vaporous, inexplicable appearances and happenings. Edward, his ""soul gone. . .burnt away,"" in a hell of grief and guilt, sets off on a quest to ""a holy shrine and holy man""--his own forgotten father, reclusive artist Jesse Baltram. Jesse is at first invisible in his multi-winged complex of ""Seegard,"" where the mystical crippled minotaur ""is tended by his wife and two daughters--the elf maidens,"" first seen as a frieze of long-gowned women. Did Jesse really summon his lost son, as Edward's session with a medium seemed to suggest? In treks through sluices of the Murdochian waters surrounding Seegard, as images of Seegard and its inhabitants blink out and re-form, Edward's hope of forgiveness seems to lie in the person of Mark's sister (discovered near the sea); but curiously, Jesse (whose knee breeches, from a distance, resemble ""shaggy haunches""), appearing as a face under water, then on the telly, seems to intervene. In the meantime, back in the citadels of domestic muddle, a rousing love affair is going on between psychiatrist Thomas' wife Midge and half-brother Stuart's father, doggedly jaunty Harry. But Midge will eventually hurl guilt-bubbling passion at Stuart, who, disdaining sex, is solely an apprentice to Good. There'll be some bizarre confrontations and a flip-flop of perceptions before--to everyone's relief--ordinariness sets in: mysteries and magic are explained; Jesse and the elf maidens (who take on most unmagical futures) are pinned and mounted; Stuart takes up teaching (and sex?), and Edward, advanced in wisdom, muses on ""the 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. ""With all those cherished Murdochian constants--waters and witchery, metaphysical posturing and concomitant pratfalls--another rounding out (and a bit of a rough-up) of the totality of the human psyche (poled, as it is, by halo and shaggy haunches), which, in spite of Murdoch's gently mocking amusement, makes us seem greater and more vast in nature and aspiration than we are. As always, difficult, dense--and potent.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1985
ISBN: 0141186682
Publisher: Viking