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.