Muriel Spark - Life Stories, Books, and Links
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Picture of Muriel Spark, twentieth century Scottish critic, poet, short-story writer, novelist, and author of books including The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Curriculum Vitae
Muriel Spark   (1918 - 2006)
Category:  Scottish Literature
Born: 1918
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: 2006
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Muriel Spark - LIFE STORIES
10/14/1961     Muriel Spark, Miss Brodie, Miss Kay
On this day in 1961 Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was published. The real Miss Brodie was Spark's high school teacher in Edinburgh, Miss Kay. She loved Mussolini, and her creme de la creme girls, and "would have put the fictional character firmly in her place." MIss Kay was also so emphatic about Spark being a writer that "I felt I had hardly much choice in the matter."
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A Far Cry from Kensington
Curriculum Vitae
Loitering with Intent
Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
The Girls of Slender Means
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Interview: "Death, Lies and Lipstick"
Read a 1997 interview originally published in the Sunday Herald in which Janice Galloway speaks with Spark about her childhood, her work, her age, and political views. With information about the author's life and works.

"... it could not be said Dame Muriel is just one of the girls. Life in the distant heights of Tuscany, a driven sense of purpose, a preoccupation with the Book of Job - how long a list need be made? Most of all, there's the frightening literary reputation - novels pared to the bone, worm-holed with wit, demanding and chilly. 'The essence of her Art,' warns Malcolm Bradbury, seemingly unaware of the sex-role expectation behind the remark, 'is its hardness.' Meet her in the flesh, however, and you are forcefully reminded that Muriel Spark - and the work she produces - glories in paradox. That her settings and characters are often drawn from the solid detail of Spark's own life is an open business. All the same, the texture of many of the protagonists of her books (January Marlow, Fleur Talbot, Jean Brodie, Lettie Colston) is so present on meeting their author, it's hard to avoid a feeling of surreality. 'I don't see what else you can draw on for fiction but your life,' she says not many minutes into our conversation, 'not only your own life but what you've learned or read from other people's lives. It's one's own experience after all, don't you think?'
Lesson Plan: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Publisher Harper Collins offers this short description of the work and plot summary, accompanied by suggested topics for inquiry and classroom discussion.

"The time is the 1930s. And Miss Brodie, apparently unaware that many might find unacceptable her outspoken admiration for Mussolini and Hitler, revels in, exploits, and shares her prime, only to become a victim of her own irrepressible exuberance. In this 'perfect book' (Chicago Tribune), Muriel Spark probes with consummate, compressed artistry the halcyon years of a remarkable woman, whose intelligence, wit, imagination, charm, and elegance--however misguided at times, however fatal--match those of her creator."
Official Website
A website was created "to help her numerous admirers and readers with definitive information about her work" which provides a list of Spark's works, biographical notes, a chapter from the recent novel Aiding and Abetting, and the essay "How I Began to Write Short Stories."

"I started writing a story on my favourite subjects, which at the time were angelology (the fascinating study of the order of angels) and the French poet Baudelaire. To make the story unusual, I placed it in Africa, on the River Zambesi..."
Review: "The Girls of Slender Means"
Find a 2003 review in which the late Carol Shields remarks on how a second look at the novel she first read in the 1960s now leads her to dramatically different interpretations and conclusions about its meaning.

"To reread The Girls of Slender Means in 2003 is to appreciate the economy and brilliance of Spark's style. This was an innovative book in 1963 - not that I knew that then - and it still, today, flashes its own disguising Schiaparelli dress, with the beauty of youth pressed close against youth's bewilderment. Innocence is abruptly overturned in these pages, but Spark has structured her novel so that we realise we are about to be blown into tragedy. I failed, however, to see this coming on my first reading. I was so occupied with "relating" and responding to the peppery prose that I missed the careful clues and warnings, especially those thrown off from Joanna's elocutionary exercises, snippets of poetry which ripple through the book like propitiating music."
The Atlantic Monthly
Find a 2001 review of Aiding and Abetting which offers historical background to the novel (the story of the fugitive murderer, Lord Lucan), supplemented with commentary on Spark's life and works.

"Readers of Muriel Spark's brilliant, addled novels—deceptive, dark little comedies that eventually veer off into bizarre supernaturalness—will not be surprised to learn that in her latest book she goes so far as to combine the Lucan story with the also real, if less famous, story of a 'fake stigmatic.' This is the sort of gaudy irreligiosity the eminent Catholic novelist has forever stuffed, along with nuns and miracles and murders, into her books. Spark's subject is always, ultimately, man's place in a world that God is entitled to treat as a funhouse. But for the duration of her typically slender novels she plays God—in this case combining the Lucan murder and the sham stigmata the way that a whimsical deity might decide to create water and then land just to see what would happen."
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March 17, 2018
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