An election is held at the abbey of Crewe and the new lady abbess takes up her high office with implacable serenity. This is a satirical fantasy about ecclesiastical and other kinds of politics. The author has also written The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Girls of Slender Means.
Available at last are all the poems by one of the twentieth century's greatest British writers, Dame Muriel Spark: "a true literary artist, acerbic and exhilarating" (London Evening Standard). In the seventy-three poems collected here Muriel Spark works in open forms as well as villanelles, rondels, epigrams, and even the tour de force of a twenty-one page ballad. She also shows herself a master of unforgettable short poems. Before attaining fame as a novelist (Memento Mori, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie), Muriel Spark was already an acclaimed poet. The "power and control" of her poetry, as Publishers Weekly remarked, "is almost startling." With the vitality and wit typical of all her work, Dame Muriel has never stopped writing poems, which frequently appear in The New Yorker. As with all her creations, the poems show Spark to be "astonishingly talented and truly inimitable" (The San Francisco Chronicle).
Four brand new tales are now added to New Directions' original 1997 cloth edition of Open to the Public. This new and complete paperback edition now contains every one of her forty-one marvelous stories, catnip for all Spark fans. All the Stories of Muriel Spark spans Dame Muriel Spark's entire career to date and displays all her signature stealth, originality, beauty, elegance, wit, and shock value.No writer commands so exhilarating a style--playful and rigorous, cheerful and venomous, hilariously acute and coolly supernatural. Ranging from South Africa to the West End, her dazzling stories feature hanging judges, fortune-tellers, shy girls, psychiatrists, dress designers, pensive ghosts, imaginary chauffeurs, and persistent guests. Regarding one story ("The Portobello Road"), Stephen Schiff said in The New Yorker: "Muriel Spark has written some of the best sentences in English. For instance: 'He looked as if he would murder me, and he did.' It's a nasty piece of work, that sentence."
Spark's very British bachelors come in every stripe First found contentedly chatting in their London clubs, the cozy bachelors (as any Spark reader might guess) are not set to stay cozy for long. Soon enough, the men are variously tormented -- defrauded or stolen from, blackmailed or pressed to attend horrid séances -- and then plunged into the nastiest of lawsuits.
A slender satirical gem from the "master of malice and mayhem" (The New York Times) The Ballad of Peckham Rye is a wickedly farcical tale of an English factory town turned upside-down by a Scot who may or may not be in league with the Devil. Dougal Douglas is hired to do "human research" into the lives of the workers, Douglas stirs up mutiny and murder.
Spark's mind-bogglingly stunning 1957 debut With easy, sunny eeriness, Spark lights up the darkest things: blackmail, a drowning, nervous breakdowns, a ring of smugglers, a loathsome busybody, a diabolic bookseller, human evil.
Muriel Spark's bracingly salty memoir is a no-holds-barred trip through an extraordinary writer's life. It is no surprise that one of Muriel Spark's most lively and entertaining works would be her own memoir, Curriculum Vitae. Born to a Scottish Jewish father and an English Presbyterian mother, Spark describes her childhood in 1930s Edinburgh in brief, dazzling anecdotes. In one she recalls a cherished schoolteacher, Christina Kay, who would later be used as the prototype for Miss Jean Brodie. Spark boldly details her disastrous first marriage to Sydney Oswald Spark (S.O.S.) -- himself thirty-two, she just nineteen -- whom she followed to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and left behind to return to England. In the midst of WWII, Spark took a bizarre position working in the disinformation campaign of the British Secret Service, eliciting information from German POWs to combat Nazi propaganda. She later moved to the Poetry Society of London, where she mingled with literati and other intellectuals, befriended by some (such as Graham Greene, an early supporter of her work) and sparring with others. We experience Spark's joy with the publication of her first novel, The Comforters, her trials with other writers' envy, and her emergence as the most brilliant femme fatale of 20th-century English literature.
The Driver's Seat, Spark's own favorite among her many novels, was hailed by the New Yorker as "her spiny and treacherous masterpiece." Driven mad by an office job, Lise flies south on holiday -- in search of passionate adventure and sex. In this metaphysical shocker, infinity and eternity attend Lise's last terrible day in the unnamed southern city that is her final destination.
The fraying fringes of 1950s literary London Rich and slim, the celebrated author Nancy Hawkins takes us in hand and leads us back to her threadbare years in postwar London, where she spends her days working for a mad, near-bankrupt publisher ("of very good books") and her nights dispensing advice at her small South Kensington rooming house. Everywhere Mrs. Hawkins finds evil: with aplomb, however, she confidently sets about putting things to order, to terrible effect.
This book is a fictional retrospective first-person narrative in which the narrator recalls events which took place in 1954 and 1955 from the vantage point of 1980s. The backdrop for the story is the London publishing scene, especially its eccentric fringe. The plot is laced with a mystery involving blackmail, suicide, and other dastardly acts.
The lethally witty and morally penetrating new novel by one of the world's most admired writers College Sunrise is a somewhat louche and vaguely disreputable finishing school located in Lausanne, Switzerland. Rowland Mahler and his wife, Nina, run the school as a way to support themselves while he works, somewhat falteringly, on his novel. Into his creative writing class comes seventeen-year-old Chris Wiley, a literary prodigy whose historical novel-in-progress, on Mary Queen of Scots and the murder of her husband Lord Darnley, has already excited the interest of publishers. The inevitable result: keen envy, and a game of cat and mouse not free of sexual jealousy and attraction. Nobody writing has a keener instinct than Muriel Spark for hypocrisy, self-delusion and moral ambiguity, or a more deliciously satirical eye. The Finishing School is certain to be another Spark landmark, an addition to one of the world's most lauded and entertaining bodies of work.
Eight spooky stories from the mistress of the unexpected. I aim to startle as well as please," Muriel Spark has said, and in these eight marvelous ghost stories she manages to do both to the highest degree. As with all matters in the hands of Dame Muriel her spooks are entirely original. A ghost in her pantheon can be plaintive or a bit vengeful, or perhaps may not even be aware of being a ghost at all. One in fact is the ghost of a man who isn't even dead yet. Another takes the bus home from work, believing she is still alive, though she is haunted by an odious tune stuck in her head (which her murderer had been relentlessly humming), and distressed by a "feeling of incompletion." And a reflective ghost recalls her mortal days of enjoying "the glory of the world, as if it would never pass. Spark has a flair for confiding ghosts: "I must explain that I departed this life nearly five years ago. But I did not altogether depart this world. There were those odd things still to be done which one's executors can never do properly." In her case the odd things include cheerily hailing her murderer, "Hallo George!" and driving him mad. The remarkably nonchalant stories here include some of her most wicked and famous"The Seraph and the Zambesi," "The Hanging Judge," and "The Portobello Road"and they all gleam with that special Spark sheen, the quality The Times Literary Supplement has hailed as "gloriously witty and polished."
"Long ago in 1945 all the nice people in England were poor, allowing for exceptions," begins The Girls of Slender Means, Dame Muriel Spark's tragic and rapier-witted portrait of a London ladies' hostel just emerging from the shadow of World War II. Like the May of Teck Club itself--"three times window shattered since 1940 but never directly hit"--its lady inhabitants do their best to act as if the world were back to normal: practicing elocution, and jostling over suitors and a single Schiaparelli gown. The novel's harrowing ending reveals that the girls' giddy literary and amorous peregrinations are hiding some tragically painful war wounds. Chosen by Anthony Burgess as one of the Best Modern Novels in the Sunday Times of London, The Girls of Slender Means is a taut and eerily perfect novel by an author The New York Times has called "one of this century's finest creators of comic-metaphysical entertainment."
Together for the first time in one sparkling, delicious volume, here are the greatest essays of Muriel Spark A fantastic essayist, the inimitable Muriel Spark addresses here the writing life; love; cats; favorite writers (T. S. Eliot, Robert Burns, the Brontës, Mary Shelley); Piero della Francesca; life in wartime London and in glamorous "Hollywood-on-the-Tiber;" 1960s Rome; faith; and parties (on her first New Year's Eve, as a baby sipping her mother's sherry: "I always loved a party"). Spark's scope is amazing, and her striking, glancing insights are precise and unforgettable. From the mysteries of Job's sufferings, she glides to Dame Edith Sitwell's cocktail advice about how to handle a nasty publisher, and on to the joys of success.
Where does art start or reality end? Happily loitering about London, c. 1949, with the intent of gathering material for her writing, Fleur Talbot finds a job "on the grubby edge of the literary world" at the very peculiar Autobiographical Association. Mad egomaniacs writing their memoirs in advance -- or poor fools ensnared by a blackmailer? When the association's pompous director steals Fleur's manuscript, fiction begins to appropriate life.
Art, reality and the strange ways the two imitate one another are at the core of Muriel Spark's delightful Loitering with Intent, first published in 1981. Would-be novelist Fleur Talbot works for the snooty, irascible Sir Quentin Oliver at the Autobiographical Association, whose members are all at work on their memoirs. When her employer gets his hands on Fleur's novel-in-progress, mayhem ensues when its scenes begin coming true. Generating hilarious turns of phrase and larger-than-life characters (especially Sir Quentin's batty mother), Spark's inimitable style make this literary joyride thoroughly appealing.
Poignant, hilarious, and spooky, Memento Mori addresses old age In late 1950s London, something uncanny besets a group of elderly friends: an insinuating voice on the telephone reminds each: Remember you must die. Their geriatric feathers are soon thoroughly ruffled, and many an old unsavory secret is dusted off.
Household servants and accidental guests must wait out the orders of the lords of the house: not to disturb. A winter's night; a luxurious mansion near Geneva; a lucrative scandal. The first to arrive is the secretary dressed in furs with a bundle of cash, then the Baron, and finally the Baroness. They lock themselves in the library with specific instructions not to be disturbed for any reason. Soon, shouts and screams emerge from the library; the Baron's lunatic brother starts madly howling in the attic; two of the secretary's friends are left waiting in a car; a reverend's services are needed for an impromptu wedding--and despite all that the servants obey their orders as they pass the time playing records, preparing dinner, and documenting false testimonies while a twisted murder plot unfolds upstairs.
A wealthy academic's life shatters when his estranged wife becomes the suspected leader of a terrorist organization Having led a successful, comfortable life, Harvey Gotham retires to the French countryside to pursue bookish obsessions--namely, a long monograph on the Book of Job, the biblical narrative of faith in the face of extraordinary suffering. But Gotham's intellectual interests soon bleed into his daily life when a series of misfortunes, from a destructive affair to his wife's involvement with an extremist group, threaten to destroy everything he holds dear. Hailed by the New York Times as "an extremely sophisticated account of the perils that surround our unsuspecting lives in the world today,"The Only Problem balances Spark's unique blend of razor-sharp satire and moral introspection in one fast-paced, absorbing novel. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Muriel Spark including rare photos and never-before-seen documents from the author's archive at the National Library of Scotland.
At the staid Marcia Blaine School for Girls, in Edinburgh, Scotland, teacher extraordinaire Miss Jean Brodie is unmistakably, and outspokenly, in her prime. She is passionate in the application of her unorthodox teaching methods, in her attraction to the married art master, Teddy Lloyd, in her affair with the bachelor music master, Gordon Lowther, and--most important--in her dedication to "her girls," the students she selects to be her crème de la crème. Fanatically devoted, each member of the Brodie set--Eunice, Jenny, Mary, Monica, Rose, and Sandy--is "famous for something," and Miss Brodie strives to bring out the best in each one. Determined to instill in them independence, passion, and ambition, Miss Brodie advises her girls, "Safety does not come first. Goodness, Truth, and Beauty come first. Follow me." And they do. But one of them will betray her.
This book probes with impeccable skill and consummate artistry the halcyon years of a fiercely independent and unorthodox school teacher and her relationship with 6 favorite pupils.
"All homage to Muriel Spark, the coolest writer ever to scald your liver and your lights" (The Washington Post). The Public Image, which the author has called "an ethical shocker," provides a scalding the reader is unlikely to forget, particularly as it is so enjoyable. Spark chooses Rome, "the motherland of sensation," for the setting of her story about movie star Annabel Christopher (known to her adoring fans as "The English Lady-Tiger"), who has made the fatal mistake of believing in her public image. This error and her embittered husband, and unsuccessful actor, catch up with her. Her final act is only the first shocking climax--further surprises await. Neatly savaging our celebrity culture, Spark rejoices in one of her favorite subjects--the clash between sham and genuine identity--and provides Annabel with an unexpected triumph.
Annabel Christopher is every inch the star: a glamorous actress with a devoted, handsome husband. To keep the paparazzi and her adoring public under her spell, her perfect image must be carefully cultivated, whatever the cost. Beneath the facade, though, her husband cannot bear her or their vapid existence. Envious of her success, and with a sense of drama far greater than her own, he stages a scandal that even Annabel will find it a challenge to recover from. 'There is no question about the quality and distinctiveness of her writing, with its quirky concern with human nature, and its comedy' William Boyd
A suspense novel about three castaways marooned on an island owned by an eccentric recluse. January Marlow, a heroine with a Catholic outlook of the most unsentimental stripe, is one of three survivors out of twenty-nine souls when her plane crashes, blazing, on Robinson's island. Presumed dead for months, the three survivors must wait for the annual return of the pomegranate boat. Robinson, a determined loner, proves a fair if misanthropic host to his uninvited guests; he encourages January to keep a journal: as "an occupation for my mind, and I fancied that I might later dress it up for a novel. That was most peculiar, as things transpired, for I did not then anticipate how the journal would turn upon me, so that having survived the plane disaster, I should nearly meet my death through it." In Robinson, Muriel Spark's wonderful second novel, under the tropical glare and strange fogs of the tiny island, we find a volcano, a ping-pong playing cat, a dealer in occult as well as lucky charms, flying ants, sexual tension, a disappearance, blackmail, andperhapsmurder. Everything astounds, confounds, and convinces, frighteningly. "She is," as Charles Alva Hoyt once put it, "the Jane Austen of the Surrealists." Robinson, a unique and marvelous novel, is another display of the powers of "the most gifted and innovative British novelist" (The New York Times). In the work of Dame Murielin the last words of Robinson "immediately all things are possible."