Friday, December 27, 2013

William Boyd's best books...

....from this week's end of year The Week  include Muriel Spark's A Far Cry from Kensington.   "Spark's tone of voice is unique:  terse, dry, clear eyed, darkly humorous.   I prefer her authobiographically based fiction, and this one rivals The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie to be her masterwork."

William Boyd's website can be found at

Monday, November 25, 2013

...and the main contenders for the best Scottish novel of the last 50 years are...

... Muriel Spark, Irvine Welsh, Iain Banks and Alasdair Gray according to yesterday's Sunday Herald.   (Book Week Scotland 2013 starts today - more details available at the Scottish Book Trust.)

Thursday, November 07, 2013

What is the best Scottish novel of the last 50 years?

Go to the Scottish Book Trust website to cast your vote.   Loitering with Intent by Muriel Spark is on the list of favourites.

Bonfire Night, Edinburgh

On a cold and dark evening, members of the Muriel Spark Society and  members of the public gathered at the National Library of Scotland to hear eminent author Alexander McCall Smith speak about Edinburgh and literature.   One could sense the affection for this writer as soon as he appeared.  Chairman Alan Taylor introduced him by pointing out the eerie coincidence of major Edinburgh writers having surnames beginning with S: Scott, Stevenson, Spark, Smith …

McCall Smith began by praising the acuity of Spark’s observations on the city of her birth, particularly with regard to The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Spark’s views are timeless, but McCall Smith would later remark on how the past disappears, how the Edinburgh of Miss Brodie had in many ways disappeared. The attenuation of the local by globalisation is something to be mourned.  He spoke despairingly of how some modern buildings can detract from local identity with their sameness. However, some ugly builds can begin to seem more palatable – David Hume Tower anyone?!

In a wide detour to Africa, MS remarked how Muriel Spark was born in Edinburgh and moved to Africa. He, on the other hand, was the opposite: Africa born and now permanently domiciled in Edinburgh.  Speaking more generally on the literature of place, he praised the sharp, fresh eye Spark brought to colonial society in Rhodesia. He praised similarly the writings of Nadine Gordimer and Spark’s friend Doris Lessing.

AMS remarked ruefully on a literary success can be a mixed blessing for a place. Savannah, Georgia is often deluged by tourists after the success of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”.   He also explored the “reality” of depictions of place in literature. Was his Edinburgh fiction not too idealised? – a question he was often asked. Yet he wish to present Edinburgh in a good light, this was quite deliberate. He did mention that he had darkened one of his stories in the light of such  comments.  He also spoke about population make-up; many of Edinburgh’s residents were middle class people, involved in office work. Were his fictions so far away from that?  He treated the audience to an amusing  reading from a Scottish woman in Italy on the malaise of Scottish men; was football really so honestly admired?

The evening was a broad, amusing, and often affectionate exploration of literature and place. Afterwards, Society members and AMS repaired to another place: The Field Restaurant for a convivial meal, where other culinary, vinous and literary explorations occurred.

Eric Dickson










Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Literary flat-shares

An interesting post from Moira Redmond on the Guardian books blog "From Muriel Spark to Hilary Mantel there's a distinct tradition of novels built around young women living together".   The 2009 Festival Fringe production of The Girls of Slender Means, based on Judith Adams adaptation, was by Stellar Quines.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

All the single ladies... article in today's Guardian Review by Rachel Cooke looking at "great literary spinsters" - the most pre-eminent for our purposes being, of course, Miss Jean Brodie.   "Brodie is powerful and compelling.   She seems to have a sex life, too.   She is also sinister and, ultimately, betrayed".
The spinsters range from Bridget Jones  back in time to Jane Austen's Miss Bates and looks at the perils, or advantages, of being "on the shelf".

Monday, October 07, 2013

Muriel Spark: A Glance through an Open Door

Here is a post by Dr Robert Hosmer on the Scottish Review of Books website based on his readings of Muriel Spark's papers held by the National Library of Scotland.   The volume and wide-ranging nature of these personal and literary papers give clues both to her early literary talent and her personal identity.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

National Poetry Day

It's National Poetry Day tomorrow - 3 October -  something to celebrate and think about especially as Muriel Spark thought of herself as first and foremost a poet.   Here is a link to the Scottish Poetry Library website which has some good ideas for marking the day, the theme this year being 'water'.   This link takes you directly to the page about Muriel Spark on the site.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Muriel Spark at the Book Festival

Follow this link to Muriel Spark,  50 Years On...Celebration of a Literary Classic (13 August, 8 pm) on page 20 of the programme for this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival  (10 - 26 August).

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

On Mary Shelley

Here is a link to the Scottish Review of Books where you will find an article by Zoe Strachan called Where Mary Met Muriel.   The article focuses on Muriel Spark's biography of Mary Shelley published by Carcanet but also talks about the beautifully illustrated edition of The Girls of Slender Means recently published by The Folio Society.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Annual General Meeting 2013

This year's Annual General Meeting will be at 7 pm on Monday 17 June in the Cardoon Suite of the Bruntsfield Hotel at 69 Bruntsfield Road, Edinburgh.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"Why Muriel Spark's prose is better than a shot of espresso in the morning"

Good tag-line by Laura Thompson writing in  The Telegraph about  Muriel Spark's biography of Mary Shelley, first published in 1951, and now re-issued by Carcanet Press.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Girls of Slender Means

 (copyright Marc Marnie)
To celebrate the publication of The Girls of Slender Means 50 years ago, and to coincide with Aye Write! last weekend in Glasgow here is a link to Stellar Quines' visionary production in 2010 on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Mary Shelley

Click here for a Guardian review of Muriel Spark's clear-eyed biography of Mary Shelley.   There are also some interesting related links on the right-hand side of the page.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Aye Write! 2013 and The Girls of Slender Means

 To celebrate 50 years since the publication of The Girls of Slender MeansNLS are sponsoring an event at the  Aye Write! Festival on 13 April and here is an edited extract  from the introduction, by
A L Kennedy, to a new publication of The Girls of Slender Means  by The Folio Society

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Celebrate Scotland...

...celebrate Muriel Spark's birthday on this page and here is an interesting DVD review from of the television series The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1978) starring Geraldine McEwan..

Monday, January 28, 2013

Birthday Lunch reminder

If you would like to go to the lunch on Sunday 3 February, but haven't yet booked, please contact Christine Selkirk at

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Book at Bedtime

Radio 4's Book at Bedtime at 10.45 pm  from Monday to Friday next week (21 - 25 January) is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, adapted by Sally Marmion and read by Gerda Stevenson

This year's Birthday Lunch... on Sunday 3 February in the Cardoon Suite at the Bruntsfield Hotel (12.30 for 1 pm).   Please contact Christine Selkirk - - by 24 January if you would like to come along.   The cost of the lunch is £26.50 for members and £28.50 for guests.   The book for this year's quiz is the intriguing and supernatural The Ballad of Peckham Rye.

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Far Cry from Kensington

With many thanks to a Society member for this link to an article by Maud Newton in The Awl concerning the tricky issue of advice-giving... and a certain Mrs Nancy Hawkins.