About Me

About Me

Gardener, Writer

I currently earn a living as a gardener, bookseller, dog-walker and tutor. My writing credits can be viewed here. I have had two poetry books and a pamphlet published and I'm a co-translator of Alain-Fournier:Poems (Carcanet, 2016). As editor: Four American Poets (The High Window Press)

4.6.19

On Muriel Spark


I felt quite unsettled after reading this novella today and not just because of the content - a character, Lise, travels abroad to choose the right person to kill her - which is disturbing in itself, but also because of the power of the narration. The voice of the narrator very quickly finds its way to the inner ear, storytelling that takes the reader hostage, and makes them somehow complicit, as if they were a character in the novel and controlled by the author, just as Lise controls and puts other characters at risk in her quest for a gruesome self-annihilation. Spark hypnotises the reader in this way by laying the motive bare, going to the heart of the matter, to the jugular; the uncompromising truths, as dark as they are, are inevitable and unstoppable; the spareness, starkness, of the chrome-like, plot-driven, prose doesn't allow the reader to come up for air; the narrator attracts, seduces, enervates, renders the reader passive as if they were suffering from some form of locked-in syndrome, a horrible entrapment where they have no choice but to witness the story inevitably unfold.

In a sense it is a counter-cultural book, antithetical to the swinging sixties (Lise's deliberately gauche clashing attire is the opposite of the Mary Quant look); a satire on the commercialism of human life, the portmanteau scenes in the municipal department store a kind of dystopia-in-the-making, the future in all its banality about to explode. This is less a novella and more a dark film. It shows us the pitfalls of insanity but not how to avoid it. The voiceover-like narration works like a documentary to highlight  our naive outlook. The book is a bleak and beautiful private relations disaster. It is also a feminist book.