sparks of the one and only muriel in rome 1971

CLICK still above to watch interview

New Directions, one of the -if not the- only unashamed publishers of books left, send out a newsletter which currently flags up their edition of Not To Disturb [1971] and a forthcoming Curriculum Vitae [1992] and links to Maud Newton’s blog which itself links to this gorgeous interview with a profanely regal Muriel in that palatial apartment in Rome [cf Martin Stannard’s recent biography]. It’s a very nice way to spend 29 minutes and 44 seconds…

CV is one of my favourite of her books, one of my favourite books altogether [republished in 2009 by Carcanet here]. I remember being stunned by its clarity of recall of an early life in Edinburgh. It’s all there, down to the wood of the chairs in each classroom kind of detail, an all-present narrative prose that contrasts almost completely with my own inevitably elliptical memory and what -to risk baying English laughter- I have to call precisely, my equivalent poem [very possibly a bad poem, but I’m being exact rather than qualitative]. Incidentally, claiming Spark is one of the few times that conventional thinking has any appeal to me. If a notion of patrilineage were a substantive approach to life, I’d simply be a Scot -albeit via lengthy colonising detour -which rather underscores it…

Cover of 'The Driver's Seat'Another favourite of her books and beyond is The Driver’s Seat [1970] which was shortlisted, of course, for best missed Booker last year but lost out to JG Farrell no? What she achieves with TDS is something that English writers are simply incapable of; the bold lightness, the anglular approach, crispness, ambiguities and integral wit, the sheer daring in written form. English, British, there’s noone who can do that and more over, very few who don’t disdain those qualities, stupidly.

As Britain is set back on a course towards the moronic vulgarity and elementary philistinism of the 1980s -whereby if you want to read, think, wonder or speculate as a young person you’ll have to borrow more; yes! you’ll be punished for it- a writer like Spark becomes larger, rarer, more precious and yet of course not personally precious at all. Those of us who do read, think, wonder and speculate have our exquisite revenge in the form of a profound release from arithmetical literalism and anti-intellectual conformity. We live or to be precise attempt to live a good life, no matter what and any which other way you put it.

We attempt a good life, “nevertheless” -as MS says with relish in this interview. In spite of but not merely to spite. I’ll risk provoking the age-old English cry of pretentious! again by adding that while nevertheless is a favourite of MS’s, my favourite Spanish word -one of my favourites words altogether, has long been sin embargo -which means the same thing. Sin embargo…

The future, it is essential to insist, is a better country. If you doubt that then you can start with reading or re-reading some of MS to make it more real and remember that a spark is one way of lighting a fire. And that fiery outrage is a worthy response to the UK’s return to 19th Century Toryism where it meets with 19th Century Liberalism too…

Muriel Spark’s Archive is held at the National Library of Scotland which has a substantial series of pages here [from where I’ve borrowed the cover image of TDS] Amongst them, the archive itself can be glimpsed in this link to a brief summary with more recent accessions on the main page.

13 thoughts on “sparks of the one and only muriel in rome 1971

  1. My nephew was laughing at me when reading this line on your post have to borrow more yes! you&#8217ll be punished for it- a writer like Spark becomes larger, rarer, more this is it, you just smashed it down pal.

  2. What is the goal of this? I absolutely do not believe you. But as I said before people are complex creatures, they do acts that are not regularly right . Well could be I have a spoiled day , I will go and do some exercise, maybe that assists to find some good mood

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