Monday, May 13, 2013

An Author a Day for Thirty Days: Day 13

Muriel Spark
I just realized that we've never spent much time on Muriel Spark. I can only assume that this horrible oversight is Gianna's fault. Maybe she could have dedicated one of those Gail Caldwell posts to Muriel Spark. I mean, Muriel Spark is a Dame.

Here are some things to know: Muriel Spark is Scottish, so I will assume she only ever wore kilts. Also, she moved with her husband to Africa and had a son, but when her husband became manic depressive, she left them and returned to the UK. Oh, and she worked for British Intelligence during World War II. Also, she was baptized by the Church of England one year, and then switched to Roman Catholicism the next. She lived in New York, where she met a sculptor named Penelope Jardine, and the two moved to Tuscany. Though she and her friends denied rumors of her lesbianism, Muriel made sure that Penelope inherited her entire estate, leaving nothing to her son. Does anyone else think that Muriel Spark, based on her biography alone, should be Gianna's favorite writer ever?
Before Hogwarts and Downton Abbey,
Maggie Smith was Miss Jean Brodie.

Her books? Most famous is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, about a boarding school in Edinburgh. Six girls, age 10, become favorite of Miss Brodie, standing out among the other girls. Miss Brodie is the compelling teacher who shares her love life, history, and political beliefs with her students. Using flash forwards, the reader finds out that one of the girls betrays her teacher, but this is a short book that unravels itself in pieces, bit by compelling, disturbing, bit. Dame Maggie Smith achieved fame and won an Academy Award for portraying the title character in the film adaptation. Yes, Maggie Smith was a bad ass all the way back in 1969.

I love The Driver's Seat too. Another short book, it is a super creepy and challenges standard conventions. Spark called the book a "whydunnit," as we know early on that Lise, the protagonist, will be murdered. Why, though, is the story. I first read this book in college, sixteen years ago, and whole sections still stand out in my mind. It's a perverse book, to be sure, but one that demands thought and conversation. This is less "boy meets girl, lives happily ever after" and more "girl meets boy, dies happily ever after." ...You might not want to recommend Muriel Spark to your granny.

Other books--The Girls of Slender Means, Memento Mori, Loitering With Intent, to name a few--are also great.

I think there's a big push with "women writers" right now to write about nice women, characters to whom readers can relate and with whom they would want to be friends. That wasn't Muriel Spark's shtick. She pushed buttons and made people squirm.

1 comment:

  1. I was too! Played her in the high school play. "For those who like that sort of thing--that is the sort of thing they like." Classic put-down.