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Iris and Her Friends: A Memoir of Memory and Desire

(Book #2 in the The Iris Trilogy Series)

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Book Overview

John Bayley began writing this book late at night while his wife, the beloved novelist Iris Murdoch, succumbed to Alzheimer's Disease. In a Proustian irony, as Iris was losing her memory, Bayley was... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

Finding friends on the inside of the mind

Much as John does not like the word "caregiver" it is the word most used to refer to those who are in this situation with their loved ones. Most especially, it seems life is toughest on the caregivers. Our own situation was with my wife's father who had (has) vascular dementia and lost control of his body but not his mind - for the most part. This book details five years of the opposite situation for John and Iris. For us the nature of his physical deterioration left us no choice and after fifteen years with us he moved into a home where they could care for him properly. The situation was then totally different in the sense in which John was alone and alone with Iris - who as he says was in so many ways no longer herself. How does one cope with five years of care giving without going out of their minds? By going into their mind instead. And sharing the secret with us.

Iris' Shadow

John Bayley CBE should be known more as the widower of the late Dame IRis Murdoch. Of course, he was there in the best and worst of times and never complained or criticized. Where do you find a husband like John? John and Iris's relationship could be one of the most unforgettable romances of the last century or ever. John truly loved Iris, there is doubt about that. This book is about him also as well. During Iris' later stages of Alzheimers which robbed him of the woman who wrote complicated, strategic long novels into a childlike stage where she was no longer than exceptional figure of womanhood in real life. She became a woman inflicted with Alzheimers who was unable to write anymore and didn't know her own surroundings. Imagine the smartest woman or man in the world become a lost child. No doubt, John did everything he could for Iris. They only had each other. John wrote that Iris was generous beyond belief and they lived simply in Oxford. They loved to swim together and listen to the Archers, the British Radio Soap, and talk about it afterwards. They never even owned a television set until Iris became ill. John shows us how to cope in a situation by relying on happier memories of his life when things were different or better. I admire John and Iris' relationship, there were no arguments, doubts, and worries about the other's fidelity in the marriage. In my opinion, John and Iris were made for each other and that's where it ended. John writes that sex didn't matter to Iris much before the illness and it didn't matter afterwards so why all this focus on her sexuality. Maybe she experimented with women and she was with men who she loved and lost before she met John. I think once she and John got together, their union was a remarkable one where Iris and JOhn both encouraged each other's talents as writers, literary critics, and philosophers. While Iris was the star, it was John who sat lovingly beside her without complaints. Oh if all marriages were that good.

using memories not to escape, but to cope

This is a gentle tale filled with scholarly allusions, about the last months and days Iris Murdoch spent in the care of her devoted husband, John Bayley. Since he was essentially alone, with rather formidable demands placed upon him by her Alzheimer's ailment, he coped by retreating into memories. In this situation, his memories were strikingly vivid, and reminded me of the memory-influenced dreams I had during my pregnancies, when my waking hours were racked by nausea. The memories were not so much a comfort to him, as a reminder of the fullness, the "worth-whileness" of life. I recognize this, having experienced it, as a natural way of getting through a difficult time. Iris is a strong presence in this memoir, but it tells us more about this thoughtful, intellectual, sensitive, and good man. The deep love the two shared is apparent, yet it is not put on display in the arrogant manner, the "no two people ever loved as we did, no one ever had the adventures we did or knew the famous people we did" attitude of some other authors. The book is sweet, gentle, and not nearly as sad as you might expect.

Iris and Her Friends

Memories are the essence of the soul. They define our relationships, explain our actions, and shape our perspectives. They are a part of us, so inextricably bound up with our very selves that it is difficult to contemplate ever losing them. And when we do, it is a sentence more punishing than death. But that is just the sentence that Iris Murdoch, noted British author of The Green Knight and Jackson's Dilemma and Professor of Philosophy at Oxford, received when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in 1994. Her husband, John Bayley, has since written two memoirs about his beloved Iris. The newest, Iris and Her Friends, is Bayley's sequel to Elegy for Iris, which was published in December, 1998. Elegy for Iris is exactly what its title implies: a book that mourns the premature death of Iris's mind, but it is also a tribute to her and Bayley's enduring love. It is a memoir that spans the history of their marriage, from the days of their courtship to the time of Bayley's writing.Iris is in the later stages of Alzheimer's by the time of Iris and Her Friends: A Memoir of Memory and Desire. Here, Bayley uses his own memories to escape the maddening routine of caring for and worrying about his wife. Most of the memories he recounts do not include Iris at all, but are either recollections from Bayley's childhood or remembrances of old flames he knew before he met Iris. The memories, though they seem to have little to do with Iris, in fact flow from Bayley's desire to share them with his wife.Bayley refers to the small respites from the worst of Alzheimer's as Iris's "friends." Her moments of clarity and the simple pleasures of holding and hugging become more cherished as Iris' condition worsens. The disintegration of Iris' memory is especially poignant; her incoherence and petulance stand in stark contrast to the gifted and articulate individual she once was. Bayley is brutally honest about his frustration with and sometimes irrational hatred for his wife, but his veracity does nothing to lessen the awesome devotion that is so evident in his innate concern for and awareness of her.The mundane, domestic events of Iris and John's everyday life are interspersed with his vivid recollections. His escapes into memory inject levity into the sometimes desolate and seemingly hopeless atmosphere of the household. At heart, he is a fun-loving, adventuresome, imaginative individual; stories of his escapades as a child and his days in the army all display the same delightful sense of humor. It is this flexibility and imagination that enable Bayley to survive the tough times of Iris' illness. His optimistic outlook on life ("Bad situations survive on jokes," he writes) and blunt, concise opinions on suicide, euthanasia, and sex make the entire book seem like a one-sided conversation between close friends. Bayley allows the reader to become intimately acquainted with the inner workings of his mind¡Van openness that is at odds
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