Saturday, April 15, 2006

Muriel Spark is dead

This makes me sad.

I am obsessed with Muriel Spark, I have always loved her books (haven't read them all, though most of them; when I am back at home, I am going to get all of them from the library and read through them this summer as an act of remembrance) and aside from all of the other things that are great about them (i.e. the precision, economy, humor and intelligence of the language--there are novelists I admire but wouldn't aspire to be like, but Spark is the other kind, I admire her work like crazy but I also want to write exactly like that!) she is the great novelist of people interacting in small groups. So many novels are very good on one person's interior life, or on the dynamic of the relationship between a man and a woman, or within a nuclear family; but I have a special soft spot for novels that take the other tack, resolutely avoid couples & families & instead pursue the question (almost a-la-Erving Goffman) of how semi-cloistered groups of various sizes--girls in a school or a boarding house, nuns, etc.--interact.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie remains my favorite novel of Spark's (actually I taught it last year in my graduate seminar on the idea of culture, it is obviously not an eighteenth-century text but it is in my opinion the great British novel of culture and illuminates all sorts of senses of the word that we were also working towards by way of eighteenth-century stuff and cultural theory); but I read her memoir Curriculum Vitae a few years ago and it was a revelation, it's a fascinating book in itself but it also became (along with Prime) the single most useful research resource for my new novel Dynamite No. 1, which is set in an alternate-universe version of 1930s Scotland that owes an awful lot to Spark.

(News first seen at Reading Matters.)

1 comment:

  1. yes, yes, yes. She is lovely--I am eager for better obituaries than we have so far.

    I taught *The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie* a couple times in seminars on thirties art & politics--it's a great book to read in the context of male spy stuff.

    I also used to have pinned to my bulletine board a quotation from it, along the lines of "John Stuart Mill used to rise at dawn to study Greek and what John Stuart Mill did as an infant at dawn, I most certainly can do in my prime."