Saturday, March 28, 2015

Against Dryness

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 3:24 PM


"July 5, 2012, begins normally enough —
Ben Affleck’s character goes for a drink
at the bar he co-owns with his hilariously
sarcastic twin sister Margo …."

Margo Dunne: Well, the Irish prince graces us
with his presence. [she flicks water in his face]
Nick Dunne: His majesty prefers not to be moistened.

Margo and Nick go on to discuss what Nick should get
his wife as a fifth ("wood") anniversary present.

One possibility, from the German website EinsteinSpiele.de —

(Suggested by the word Legespiel  in yesterday's link Tribute.)

See also the above date — July 5, 2012 — in this journal.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Globe Services

Filed under: General — m759 @ 1:16 PM

“Perhaps only Shakespeare manages to create at the highest level
both images and people; and even Hamlet  looks second-rate
compared with Lear .”

— Iris Murdoch, “Against Dryness,” 1961

Byline from a 2019 post — ‘GLOBE STAFF AND NEW SERVICES’ —


Above: Dr. Harrison PopeHarvard professor of psychiatry,
demonstrates the use of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale
“block design” subtest.

 — From a Log24 search for “Harrison Pope.”

Related drama — Posts tagged Plastic Elements.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Philosophy for Murdoch Fans

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 5:03 AM

The previous post contained a passage from Iris Murdoch’s
1961 essay “Against Dryness.”  Some related philosophy —

'Crystal and Dragon' by David Wade, publisher's description

For those who prefer pure mathematics to philosophical ruminations
there are some relevant remarks in my webpage of August 27, 2003.

Sunday, August 6, 2017


Filed under: General — m759 @ 10:09 AM

"Simone Weil said that morality
was a matter of attention not of will.
We need a new vocabulary of attention."

— Iris Murdoch, "Against Dryness"

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Flame Diary

Filed under: General — m759 @ 1:00 PM

Last Saturday's post Against Dryness quoted "Gone Girl,"
a recent film about an untypical couple. 

Other works of interest:

The Flame Alphabet  (Ben Marcus, 2012) and
The Folded Clock  (Heidi Julavits, 2015).

Marcus and Julavits are husband and wife. As in
"Gone Girl," both are very bright, and the wife
writes a diary. (No other resemblance between
the couples is apparent.)

Update of 6:40 PM ET March 31:

A 1983 review by the parents of Ben Marcus —

Update of 7:09 PM March 31:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Complex Symplectic Fantasy

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 8:08 PM

"We are not isolated free chosers,
monarchs of all we survey, but
benighted creatures sunk in a reality
whose nature we are constantly and
overwhelmingly tempted to deform
by fantasy."

—Iris Murdoch, "Against Dryness"
in Encounter , p. 20 of issue 88 
(vol. 16 no. 1, January 1961, pp. 16-20)

"We need to turn our attention away from the consoling
dream necessity of Romanticism, away from the dry
symbol, the bogus individual, the false whole, towards
the real impenetrable human person."

— Iris Murdoch, 1961

"Impenetrability!  That's what I  say!"

Humpty Dumpty, 1871

The Consolations of Form

Filed under: General — m759 @ 12:00 PM

"In the garden of Adding
 Live Even and Odd…."

– The Midrash Jazz Quartet
    in the novel City of God
    by E. L. Doctorow (2000)

From a search in this journal
for "Against Dryness":

See also the previous three posts.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Filed under: General — m759 @ 9:45 PM

* See the previous post's link Against Dryness.

A Shot at Redemption

Filed under: General — m759 @ 7:00 PM


“I need a photo opportunity, 
I want a shot at redemption.
Don’t want to end up a cartoon 
in a cartoon graveyard.”

— Paul Simon

Photo opportunity
for the late John Bayley and Iris Murdoch —

From a cartoon graveyard, in memory of
a British artist who reportedly died yesterday: 

Against Dryness —

Cartoon by Martin Honeysett

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Butcher’s Clay

Filed under: General — m759 @ 9:14 PM

Friday evening’s post Musement dealt with Iris Murdoch’s
phrase “the clean crystalline work.”

For dirty bloody work see the life of Don Reitz, who
reportedly died at 84 on March 19.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Structure vs. Character

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 12:00 PM

“… Reality is not a given whole. An understanding of this,
a respect for the contingent, is essential to imagination
as opposed to fantasy. Our sense of form, which is an
aspect of our desire for consolation, can be a danger to
our sense of reality as a rich receding background.
Against the consolations of form, the clean crystalline
work, the simplified fantasy-myth, we must pit the
destructive power of the now so unfashionable naturalistic
idea of character.

Real people are destructive of myth, contingency is
destructive of fantasy and opens the way for imagination.
Think of the Russians, those great masters of the contingent.
Too much contingency of course may turn art into journalism.
But since reality is incomplete, art must not be too much
afraid of incompleteness. Literature must always represent a
battle between real people and images; and what it requires
now is a much stronger and more complex conception of the

— Iris Murdoch, January 1961, “Against Dryness

See also the recent posts Structure and Character.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Monday July 7, 2008

Filed under: General — m759 @ 7:00 AM

Last evening’s entry referred to a 1961 essay by Iris Murdoch titled “Against Dryness.”  Murdoch’s use of “dryness” as a literary term is taken from a 1911 essay by T. E. Hulme, “Romanticism and Classicism.” Hulme says that

“There is a general tendency to think that verse means little else than the expression of unsatisfied emotion. People say: ‘But how can you have verse without sentiment?’ You see what it is: the prospect alarms them. A classical revival to them would mean the prospect of an arid desert and the death of poetry as they understand it, and could only come to fill the gap caused by that death. Exactly why this dry classical spirit should have a positive and legitimate necessity to express itself in poetry is utterly inconceivable to them.”

Related philosophy from Hollywood:

Bentley: … What is it, Major Lawrence, that attracts you personally to the desert?
Lawrence:  It’s clean.
Bentley:  Well, now, that’s a very illuminating answer.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sunday July 6, 2008

Filed under: General — m759 @ 9:00 PM

"Hancock" Powers to the Top
of July Fourth Box Office

This evening's online
  New York Times

New York Lottery
Sunday, July 6,
Mid-day 307
Evening  921

Log24  3/07:


Three 3x3 symbols of a language game:  the field, the game, checkmate

Log24  9/21:

"The consolations of form,
the clean crystalline work"
— Iris Murdoch, 
"Against Dryness"

Will Smith
on Chess

Will Smith with chessboard

Will Smith

The Independent, 9 July 2004:

"A devoted father, Smith passes on his philosophy of life to his children through chess, among other things.

'My father taught me how to play chess at seven and introduced beautiful concepts that I try to pass on to my kids. The elements and concepts of life are so perfectly illustrated on a chess board. The ability to accurately assess your position is the key to chess, which I also think is the key to life.'

He pauses, searching for an example. 'Everything you do in your life is a move. You wake up in the morning, you strap on a gun, and you walk out on the street– that's a move. You've made a move and the universe is going to respond with its move.

'Whatever move you're going to make in your life to be successful, you have to accurately access the next couple of moves– like what's going to happen if you do this? Because once you've made your move, you can't take it back. The universe is going to respond.'

Smith has just finished reading The Alchemist, by the Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho: 'It says the entire world is contained in one grain of sand, and you can learn everything you need to learn about the entire universe from that one grain of sand. That is the kind of concept I'm teaching my kids.'"

Related material:

"Philosophers' Stone"
and other entries
of June 25, 2008

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday September 21, 2007

Filed under: General — Tags: , — m759 @ 8:28 AM
Word and Object

"We may recall the ideal of 'dryness' which we associate with the symbolist movement, with writers such as T. E. Hulme and T. S. Eliot, with Paul Valery, with Wittgenstein. This 'dryness' (smallness, clearness, self-containedness) is a nemesis of Romanticism…. The temptation of art… is to console. The modern writer… attempts to console us by myths or by stories."

— Iris Murdoch  

"The consolations of form,
the clean crystalline work"

— Iris Murdoch, 
"Against Dryness"

"As a teacher Quine
was carefully organized,
precise, and conscientious,
but somewhat dry
in his classroom style."

Harvard Gazette 


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Myth and Story:

The five entries ending
on Jan. 27, 2007

"There is such a thing
as a tesseract."
Madeleine L'Engle  

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wednesday September 19, 2007

Filed under: General — m759 @ 5:00 AM
Einstein, God, and
the Consolation of Form

“The kind of thing that would make Einstein gag”

Peter Woit, Sept. 18, 2007

    “– …He did some equations that would make God cry for the sheer beauty of them. Take a look at this…. The sonofabitch set out equations that fit the data. Nobody believes they mean anything. Shit, when I back off, neither do I. But now and then, just once in a while…
     — He joined physical and mental events. In a unified mathematical field.
     — Yeah, that’s what I think he did. But the bastards in this department… bunch of goddamned positivists. Proof doesn’t mean a damned thing to them. Logical rigor, beauty, that damned perfection of something that works straight out, upside down, or sideways– they don’t give a damn.”

— “Nothing Succeeds,” in The Southern Reporter: Stories of John William Corrington, LSU Press, 1981

“The search for images of order and the loss of them constitute the meaning of The Southern Reporter.”

Louisiana State University Press

“By equating reality with the metaphysical abstraction ‘contingency’ and explaining his paradigm by reference to simple images of order, Kermode [but see note below] defines the realist novel not as one which attempts to get to grips with society or human nature, but one which, in providing the consolation of form,* makes the occasional concession to contingency….”

Richard Webster on Frank Kermode’s The Sense of an Ending

We are here in the
Church of St. Frank.

Marjorie Garber,
Harvard University

* “The consolations of form” is a phrase Kermode quoted from Iris Murdoch. Webster does not mention Murdoch. Others have quoted Murdoch’s memorable phrase, which comes from her essay “Against Dryness: A Polemical Sketch,” Encounter, No. 88, January 1961, pp. 16-20. The essay was reprinted in a Penguin paperback collection of Murdoch’s work, Existentialists and Mystics. It was also reprinted in The Novel Today, ed. Malcolm Bradbury (Manchester, Manchester U. Press, 1977); in Revisions, ed. S. Hauerwas and A. MacIntyre (Notre Dame, U. of Notre Dame Press, 1981); and in Iris Murdoch, ed. H. Bloom (New York, Chelsea House, 1986).

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