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Stuart Cuno has decided to become good. Not believing in God, he invents his own methods, which include celibacy, chastity and the abandonment of a promising academic career. Interfering friends and relations question his sincerity, his sanity and his motives. Stuart's step-brother Edward Baltram is tormented by guilt because he has, he believes, killed his best friend. He dreams sometimes of redemption, sometimes of suicide. Funny, compelling and extremely moving, THE GOOD APPRENTICE is about guilt ridden despair, and the difficult problem of how to try to be good - and the various magical devices which console those who are sensible enough not to try.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099285250
ISBN-10: 0099285258
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 31mm)
Pages: 576
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 30-Nov-2000
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Reviews

US 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. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Iris Murdoch

Iris Murdoch was born in Dublin in 1919 of Anglo-Irish parents. She went to Badminton School, Bristol, and read classics at Somerville College, Oxford. During the war she was an Assistant Principal at the Treasury, and the worked with UNRRA in London, Belgium and Austria. She held a studentship in Philosophy at Newham College, Cambridge, and then in 1948 she returned to Oxford where she became a Fellow of St Anne's College. Until her death in February 1999, she lived with her husband, the teacher and critic John Bayley, in Oxford. Awarded the CBE in 1976, Iris Murdoch was made a DBE in the 1987 New Year's Honours List. In the 1997 PEN Awards she received the Gold Pen for Distinguished Service to Literature. Since her writing debut in 1954 with Under the Net, Iris Murdoch has written twenty-six novels, including the Booker Prize-winning The Sea, The Sea (1978) and most recently The Green Knight (1993) and Jackson's Dilemma (1995). Other literary awards include the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for The Black Prince (1973) and the Whitbread Prize for The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (1974). Her works of philosophy include Sartre: Romantic Rationalist, Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (1992) and Existentialists and Mystics (1997). She has written several plays including The Italian Girl (with James Saunders) and The Black Prince, adapted from her novel of the same name. Her volume of poetry, A Year of Birds, which appeared in 1978, has been set to music by Malcolm Williamson.

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