Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Monday, May 26, 2014
Muriel Spark: the author as dictator
Muriel Spark’s acerbic, unsettling novels populated by vivid types have their origins in her rackety life
In 1954, while working on TS Eliot and popping the slimming drug Dexedrine, Spark began to suffer from hallucinationsPhoto: Frank Monaco/REX
The young Spark, if we trust the author’s recollection, had already perfected the unruffled moral certainty that makes her prose such a pleasure. In nearly all her 22 novels, the narrative voice sounds like a witty judge summing up a case: characters are hauled up, humorously belittled and then dragged away for punishment.
In Sparkworld, the novelist observes what appears innocuous – colourless, you might say – and sniffs out the poison. In her fifth novel, The Bachelors (1960), the pale Patrick Seton plots the murder of his pregnant girlfriend; in The Ballad of Peckham Rye, published the same year, a man working at a textile factory might actually be Satan. Spark’s vivid types belong more to the world of a Ben Jonson satire than the modern psychological novel. More