Saturday, April 15, 2006

Rest in Peace, Muriel...

From today's New York Times. (Although credited as being published on the 16th, it appeared in the online edition of the 15th...)

Muriel Spark, the Crème de la Crème of Contemporary Novelists, Is Dead at 88

By HELEN T. VERONGOS and ALAN COWELL
Published: April 16, 2006


Muriel Spark, known for her finely polished, darkly comic prose and for the unforgettable Miss Jean Brodie, one of the funniest and most sinister characters in modern fiction, died Friday at a hospital in Florence, Italy. She was 88.

Ms. Spark's death was announced Saturday, The Associated Press reported, by Massimiliano Dindalini, the mayor of the Tuscan village of Civitella della Chiana, where she had lived for almost 30 years.

Her work, unlocked from her innermost memories of her experiences before and after her conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1954, built a canon of short, sometimes macabre, sometimes darkly humorous novels that sought to pare away the absurdities of human behavior.



(Above, Ms. Spark, ca. 1940s.)

Ms. Spark's first novel was published when she was 39, and after that she supplied a stream of slender novels and enigmatic short stories peopled with such curiosities as narrators from beyond the grave, flying saucers, grandmotherly smugglers with bread bins full of diamond-studded loaves and individuals of such little substance that they disappear when the door closes.

In her writing evil is never far away, violence is a regular visitor, and death is a constant companion. Her themes are generally serious but nearly always handled with a feather-light touch.



(Muriel Spark's writing desk, Tuscany, 2003.)

It is this lightness, and a contrived detachment toward her characters, that became the target of the harshest criticism of her work, which at her death included more than 20 novels, several collections of short stories, poetry, criticism, biography, plays and a handful of children's books.

Some accused her of coolness and even cruelty toward the characters she invented and then send — sometimes quite merrily — to terrible deaths...

The rest of the obit may be found here...