John Oliver Bayley

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Elegy for Iris

Bayley, John Oliver

Last Updated: Aug-26-2005
Annotated by:
Taylor, Nancy

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir


This memoir of Bayley's life with novelist Iris Murdoch who, in 1994, began exhibiting signs of Alzheimer's disease, is divided into "Then" and "Now," with emphasis on the "Then." Bayley admits that their independent lifestyles, which had both bound them and allowed them freedom, kept him from knowing the "real" Murdoch; sadly, the novelist is almost as much an unknown to him as to us. He speaks of Murdoch's lack of any sense of superiority and her disinterest in social or artistic success; she simply did her work.

In the brief section titled "Now," Bayley presents seven episodes of their life together between January and December 1997. These pictures of Murdoch lost and at sea, following him around, uttering "mouse cries," collecting pebbles, moss, sticks, dead worms, and asking over and over "When are we going?"--these will be familiar to Alzheimer's families, as will his sometimes rage and his constant sense of frustration and loss.

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