<JohnGabree.com (Some) Writing>

"Memento Mori,"
"The Girls of Slender Means,"
"The Ballad of Peckham Rye"
and "Loitering with Intent"
by Muriel Spark

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. (1982)

Buy Memento Mori by Muriel Spark
The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark
The Ballad of Peckham Rye by Muriel Spark
Loitering with Intent by Muriel Spark
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark



<home> - <bio> - <creativity> - <links> - <writing>

I accept payment through PayPal!, the #1 online payment service!