Note on Muriel Spark

God. The good guys are falling. Sorry now to see Muriel Spark go.

If you haven’t read her books, you really should. There’s nothing else like them. I’m no expert, since I’ve only read three or four, but the effects and power of the novels are extraordinary.

As an artist of elision, of character shown in skips and pauses, of speech as action rather than explication and saying-what-you-mean, she was nearly without rival. What always got me, though, is the prose: there’s an uncanny depth to it. It does lucid, pared-down description, clean realism, but then there’s an allusion, echo or perfect word choice, and it vibrates in an odd way that makes the reality tremble or deepen. I guess I’m thinking of the squaring-off scenes in Peckham Rye in particular here (can’t check or quote – my Spark novels are in the attic)

God, that ability to hit the primal, religious or unheimlich. I was fascinated by how she did it – it’s something that many attempt, but in most cases it looks thought out, or an allusion-set that’s sitting there waiting to be dissected in a classroom. At the same time, something that good almost makes me back off analysis: I want to know how it works, but I don’t want to break it.

The body dies, the work lives on.

That’s something I suppose.

God. Now he’s posting his holiday snaps.

Oh yeah.

I forgot I said I’d post those pictures of Pessoa-ey places from Lisbon.

Here’s a cafĂ© he used to sit in most days:

Much more interesting is this rubbish tile-portrait of Charles II:

As a tile, it sadly doesn’t quite qualify for my long-incubated Crap Delft project, in which I heartlessly mock the primitive grasp of anatomy in crude blue-and-white china representations of all-but forgotten 18th-century events.

In fact it has nothing on its companion, which, though I don’t speak Portuguese, may have been called ‘Catherine of Braganza portrayed as a late-career no-hoper boxer’:

I saw it at the tile museum. The Portuguese seem to love tiles and pineapples. Why is that, wonder?

Anyway, the important thing is that I took this picture of a sea otter:

Look at the little fella!

But wouldn’t some kind of book slam be cooler?

Oh, forgot to big this up: The New Fitzrovia.

I’m certainly going to make it along; it looks like the best Holy Thursday since AD33.

I’ve also been meaning to say something about 3am’s least influential list. I wanted to nominate Wordsworth Classics, who I think do great work that’s often overlooked: making a virtue of neccessity, they’ve made classic and idiosyncratic translations of many great works available for peanuts: the Garth-Tonson Metamorphoses, Chapman’s Homer, etc.

But I didn’t get round to it.

I prefer the follow-up

Londonstani is so exciting that Urmilla from Brighton gives it five stars without even having read it.

Similarly, Amazon claims Billy Bragg is another fan:

‘Judging from that reading, Londonstani is a very powerful and important book.’

I think it’s an important novel, based largely on the cover.