Private: Muriel Spark interview and review

Claudia FitzHerbert reviews Muriel Spark’s The Finishing School for the Telegraph:

Muriel Spark is by her own account a greedy old woman who gets fatter and fatter. Her fiction, by contrast, has been growing steadily more emaciated. Excepting the odd experimental bulge, her books have always been slender, with smallish casts in single places, but in recent years she has drastically reduced the number of puppets on show and more or less removed the backdrops.

This may be partly the old story of the artist, in the last stage of a long career, losing faith in the magic of illusion and wanting to reveal the illusion of the magic, except that Spark has always played footsie with the machinery and cocked a snook at realism.

Also in the Telegraph, Emily Bearn meets Spark at her home. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

“I can’t ever remember a time when I wasn’t writing something,” she says. “When I’m writing a novel I can’t think of anything else. Sometimes Penelope tells me: isn’t that like such and such a movie, or isn’t that like such and such a film star? Well, in my life I lost all that. I never went to a film or saw a movie star. There was a whole life lost to me because all I was doing was writing. Maybe I should have had more life but it’s too late now.”

It’s probably not too late – one of her grandmothers lived to 105 and Muriel seems enough of a trooper to follow suit. But one senses that she has no desire to expand her horizons. Her days are still scheduled around writing, always in longhand, usually in the afternoons, and she says she feels guilty if she spends a day estranged from her desk. “I have so much to do. In my mind I have plans. And the more books I write, the more letters I get. I let them mount up, then I reply to them on a Saturday.”