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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Rather parochial interest., 7 April 2002
This review is from: Mary Warnock: A Memoir - People and Places (Hardcover)
This memoir is mainly going to be of interest to those contemporary with Warnock, studying just before and for a few years after the second world war, at Oxford and Cambridge in particular.
The first 30 pages or so give something of a potted life of Mary as wife, scholar. The remaining sections of the book are episodes featuring some well-known figures (in some cases)of academe or politics - Philippa Foot, Iris Murdoch, and unknown to me, novelist and teacher, Rachel Trickett; Peter Shore and lastly, Margaret Thatcher.
This is an academic world of not so rounded-characters, fierce emotions and intellectual lives which come across to the reader as not being that pleasurable. Warnock maintains at all times a critical distance both from her 'mentors', educators or whoever, and from herself. Despite worrying about her egocentricity in the writing of this book, Mary is no more known than anyone else here. For the most part her teachers were formidable as would be expected perhaps of such places and the critical distance not unexpected of a philosopher. Both contribute to making the intellectual life seem terrible dry , even unwholesome. Yet there must have been some pleasure in all those historical philosophical texts, comparatively examined. It is not until p.81 that we come across a 'resonance' with all those books and study. This comes from an incident in Italy and some pastoralists spouting latin!
Rather surprisingly for a married woman with a largish family there is very little intimacy of relationships, even close friendships. This is a group or groups of people given to keeping their privacies, maybe suggestive of the 'role-playing' that intellectuals get up to. In the tooing and froing of argument there seems a general loss of tack and a general lack of graciousness of the characters depicted. P.77 she only had one real conversation with Iris Murdoch. P. 69 Elizabeth Anscombe (Wittgenstein studies)comes over highly strung. Overall the general difficulty with this book is the translating of the life of the mind, the privatised mind of this author reading and encountering her subjects into properly 3-D characters off the page. Warnock does not have the novelist's gift for bringing people's character memorabily to life. What i wonder really matters anyway? The books that these subjects wrote whom we may encounter at first hand by reading them for ourselves? Or, the view given of them when met in the flesh , by Warnock?
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