Diagnosing Murdoch’s manuscripts

Neuroscientist Peter Garrard and his colleagues have analysed Iris Murdoch’s last novel, Jackson’s Dilemma, and say that it reveals the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. (Via MoorishGirl.)

The Guardian explains:

“Using concordance software, they analysed the types of words – nouns, verbs, descriptors and so on – in each novel, and their richness. Comparisons of the three novels showed that her vocabulary became richer in the early stages of her writing career, but showed signs of impoverishment in the final work.

The sentences themselves were well formed, but the words became more commonplace. An analysis of 30 sentences found on average fewer words per sentence, and fewer clauses per sentence, in the last novel.”

I dunno. Just finished reading two city supplements that both show distinct signs of impoverishment in the final work, use terribly commonplace words, and lack richness completely. Indian newspapers as Alzheimer’s victims? It’s always possible…


  1. … as evidence that Alzheimer’s as well as eloquent incoherence are the norm amongst India’s reporter-class, I offer this sample, a mini-art review from today’s Asian Age: “The works revelled in the finesse of the contour and the fragility of the tactile quality of rendition. Intricacy and intrigue played side by side in his works. The attire of the woman, the blouse with its textured terrain, was tempered with a wonderful yet restrained sense of the decorative: the intense beaten bead like (sic) detailing, the restrained curve of her black hair on her brow, the strands on her head with a compelling parting all made for a series of studies that proclaimed drawings can indeed be sensory art.”

  2. Confession time: I know I’ve written a bad/ hasty review if it contains any of these words or phrases–luminous, lucent, limned, soul-stirring, richly sensitive and magnum opus. But the bead one is new to me. I’m going to have to work on this: his beady prose, na, not quite right. His bead-bedewed sentences, not quite there. How about his luminous sentences, soul-stirring with a hint of richly sensitive beading that you can limn?

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