It’s no great secret that Iris Murdoch loved a drink (and I’m not just talking about a wee sweet sherry on Boxing Day). And as someone who loved a drink, it makes an awful lot of sense she loved pubs. But did you know that she also loved beermats?*
Apparently, Murdoch, who died in 1999, kept a large shopping bag full of beermats hanging on the door of her study, nicked from her favorite pubs in Oxford and London (and beyond).
Would you like to learn more about Iris Murdoch’s beermats? Because I would. Luckily for us, there’s a book project in the offing that seeks to explore the centrality of pubs to the novels of Iris Murdoch, using her delightful collection of beermats (which used to have a bit more flair, design-wise, frankly) as a way in.
Miles Leeson, Director of the Iris Murdoch Research Centre, and Anne Rowe, a visiting professor at the IMRC, are raising money to publish Iris Murdoch’s Beermats, which focuses on the idea that:
The magical ambience and richness of humanity Murdoch found in pubs fueled her creative imagination and make her novels compulsive reading. “I can’t understand your passion for pubs,” says one of two old friends on a country walk in The Book and The Brotherhood (1987). In defense, “they are universal places, like churches, hallowed meeting places of all mankind, and each one is different” replies the other.
“Hallowed meeting places of all mankind…” really hits different during a pandemic, doesn’t it? Sigh.
*Beermats is the much more sensibly descriptive UK term for what Americans call “coasters.”