The New Yorker Profiles Muriel Spark
The New Yorker, as expected, wrote an outstanding profile of Muriel Spark in 2014.
Check out the whole piece if you’re interested, but I thought I’d highlight a couple of passages.
This first one talks about the nature of a typical Spark protagonist.
Spark was fond of pointing out that as a child she never mothered her dolls. They were puppets, at her command; so too are her characters. They are broad types, complete with catchphrases: “I was Mrs. Hawkins,” “I’m in my prime.” We cannot “enter” them, as the dreadful phrase goes. They don’t excite empathy. They don’t, in fact, differ much from one another. With a few variations, your Sparkian heroine will be a large, intensely clever woman, an editor or a writer, a bit lonely, a bit criminally inclined. Above all, she’s a superb “sighter,” as Spark would say. A watchful woman talented at teasing out secrets. Put simply: imagine the young Muriel Spark.
All the above is absolutely spot on in relation to Jean Brodie, the star of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. She’s somewhat aloof, detached, a little crazy, very intelligent.
Later, the article highlights Spark’s overall approach on writing her novels and why she allows her characters to suffer as she does.
Spark insisted upon mystery. “You have to live with the mystery,” she said. “That’s the answer in my books.” If we insisted upon interpretations, however, she’d supply them herself, and she had very clear ideas about what the suffering in her novels was meant to signify. Like Flannery O’Connor, she was a passionate Roman Catholic (if a delightfully idiosyncratic one: she was a vocal champion of birth control) and given to gnomic pronouncements on her work. “I’m often very deadpan,” she said, “but there’s a moral statement too, and what it’s saying is that there’s a life beyond this, and these events are not the most important things. They’re not important in the long run.”
Overall, I’m a fan of Muriel Spark. This novel has been an easy, quick read. She’s such a clean writer.
My review is coming tomorrow.
Image: Muriel Spark (Wikimedia Commons)