15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Splendid meditations on love and death,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Black Prince (Paperback)"The Black Prince" is my favorite novel, and I can recommend it unreservedly for its vivid characters, for its complexity, its wit, its drama, for its analysis of human failings and triumphs, loves and hates, and for its prose, which is ecstatic, biting, and brilliant. The ambiguously romantic Black Prince of the title, Bradley Pearson, is an aged bachelor, whose range of somewhat histrionic emotions involves the serene Rachel Baffin, her confused daughter Julian, Rachel's novelist husband Arnold, Bradley's rival in so many ways, Bradley's dysfunctional sister Priscilla, and Bradley's prying ex-wife Christian, who holds the possibility of solace and redemption. In amongst this tangled web they weave Bradley "meditates" on art and metaphysics, sleeping and waking, life and death.
Iris Murdoch is the English authoress of a score of popular novels. Unlike the submissions of most writers who attempt to be popular, Ms. Murdoch's elegant fictions are literature, and are also aspirants to the semi-mythical realm of "art". And what is "art"? Is it not, in at least its principle manifestation, great entertainment? And I would assert that the greatness of the entertainment depends mightily upon the reader. I know a man who thinks, and says, that all of Iris Murdoch's books are alike. Very well. Emotional response is surely the beginning of literary criticism (otherwise why bother reviewing this book, or that one?). I identified with Bradley Pearson for several years of my life, and was jubilant that he lived in a world of funny, thoughtful, intensely interesting people, most of whom were not relatives.
"Morality" (I put this fragile word between quotation marks because it is so often misused) is intimate to the Murdoch view of things, and the "eternal verities" are influential, even numinous, to all of her characters, including the thoughtless ones. Love, as a unifying force, is awake and vibrant. Beauty is our glimpse of the Godhead. Truth is a paradise into which we may freely pass, if only we have the desire to do so. Justice is as intimate as self-condemnation and as ruthless as violence. Abstractions, in the world of Iris Murdoch's characters, dissolve into human emotions that clarify the world and link us in splendid ways to other human animals. "The Black Prince" is a celebration of our ambiguous and splendid emotions. [November 28, 1996]