Saturday, April 28, 2012
The Complete Short Stories - Muriel Spark
A recurring theme of this week has been a general sentiment of 'this isn't Spark's best book, but...', it was my own reaction to 'Territorial Rights' - well 'The Complete Short Stories' contains Spark in all her moods and forms. A witty, playful, sometimes cruel writer the short story suits her and for anyone newish to Spark this is the where I'd suggest you go after the inevitable 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie'; it's a very good place to get to know her. So far the only one I haven't liked was 'The Thing About Police Stations' which was set in an almost Orwellian dystopia and I found somewhat baffling.
At entirely the other end of the spectrum was the really charming 'A Hundred And Eleven Years Without A Chauffeur', in which an elderly woman finds some of her family photographs have gone missing including one of an aunt by her sewing machine who had always wanted a Rolls Royce. They turn up again having been pinched by an ersatz Baron in search of some ancestors but meanwhile he's doctored the images and the long gone aunt ends up immortalised with the Rolls she always dreamt of.
Perhaps most interesting so far has been 'The Gentile Jewess' it felt autobiographical to read being about a girl with Jewish and Anglican antecedents turning to Roman Catholicism - Wikipedia backs that up. It also has something interesting to say, in a quiet sort of way, about the nature of belief and faith and like 'A Hundred And Eleven Years Without A Chauffeur' was exceptionally satisfying as a story. (That's it, I won't give a break down of the dozen stories I read but rest assured they were all, with the possible exception of the police one, excellent)
I can honestly say that this is Spark at her best (if you only buy one Spark book make sure... etc.) it's also a book that's going to be rescued from the neglected spot at the back of the bookshelf that it's been hiding on to be sent to a new home somewhere more prominent and generally handy for bed time reading.