<JohnGabree.com (Some) Writing>
Review by John Gabree
It is surprising that Muriel Spark is not better known in the US. Except for "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" (and then as much for the play and the movie as for the book), her satirical novels are largely unfamiliar to Americans without a special interest in British fiction. Reading this batch of reprints, it is difficult to fathom why. Less peculiarly English than Wodehouse, funnier and more economical than Maugham, her way of seeing simultaneously the comedy and the horror of living would seem to suit her ideally for an audience living in times as Orwellian as these.
Of the books at hand, "Memento Mori" is not only the best but despite its brilliance the most accessible. Readers of Evelyn Waugh's "The Loved One" will be prepared for the wicked delight Spark takes in subjecting her elderly protagonists to a series of unexpected travails. She compresses an amazingly full critique of her characters' lives -- and by extrapolation of all our lives -- into brief sketches and snatches of dialogue. "Memento Mori" calls into serious question old saws about the wisdom of the aged.
The other three
novels are nearly as good, each different from the other and all better
than anything you're likely to run across in the fall lists. They
are hilarious, challenging, orginal, with a fiery daring that comes
closer to the South Americans than to her fellow islanders. Her work
has a technical virtuosity unsurpassed among contemporary novelists.
Her characterizations are deft and memorable. Her dialogue is crisp
and amusing. These are entertainments of the highest order, and it's
a pleasure to have them available again in this uniform trade edition.
Mori by Muriel Spark