Muriel Spark: The Biography

Muriel Spark: The Biography

Muriel Spark: The Biography

作    者
Martin Stannard;  
封面价格 × 汇率 + 税(13%)
W. W. Norton & Company
4.8 * 23.4 * 15.5

Product Description

The compelling first biography of a twentieth-century literary enigma.

Born in 1918 into a working-class Edinburgh family, Muriel Spark became the epitome of literary chic and one of the great writers of the twentieth century. Her autobiography, Curriculum Vitae, recorded her early years but politely blurred her darker moments: troubled relations with her family, a terrifying period of hallucinations, and disastrous affairs with the men she loved. At the age of nineteen, Spark left Scotland to get married in southern Rhodesia, only to divorce and escape back to Britain in 1944. Her son returned in 1945 and was brought up by Spark’s parents while she established herself as a poet and critic in London. After converting to Catholicism in 1954, she began writing novels that propelled her into the literary stratosphere. These came to include Memento Mori, The Girls of Slender Means, and A Far Cry from Kensington.

With The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961), later adapted into a successful play and film, Spark became an international celebrity and began to live half her life in New York City. John Updike, Tennessee Williams, Evelyn Waugh, and Graham Greene applauded her work. She had an office at The New Yorker and became friends with Shirley Hazzard and W. H. Auden. Spark ultimately settled in Italy, where for more than thirty years—until her death in 2006—she shared a house with the artist Penelope Jardine.

Spark gave Martin Stannard full access to her papers. He interviewed her many times as well as her colleagues, friends, and family members. The result is an indelible portrait of one of the most significant and emotionally complicated writers of the twentieth century. Stannard presents Spark as a woman of strong feeling, sharp wit, and unabashed ambition, determined to devote her life to her art. Muriel Spark promises to become the definitive biography of a literary icon. 16 pages of b/w photographs

About the Author

Martin Stannard is a professor of modern English literature at the University of Leicester, where he has taught since 1979. He was previously Leverhulme Research Fellow in English Literature at the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of Muriel Spark: The Biography, Evelyn Waugh, The Early Years: 1903–1939 and Evelyn Waugh, The Later Years: 1939–1966, and editor of Evelyn Waugh, The Critical Heritage. His many articles and reviews have appeared in Modern Language Review, Essays in Criticism, the New York Times Book Review, the Times Higher Education Supplement, and Novel, among other publications.


Will undoubtedly become the standard biography of a writer with perhaps the most distinctive voice . . . in postwar British fiction. (The Observer )

Martin Stannard’s biography of Muriel Spark—dark queen of post-war British fiction and, for me at least, one of the great writers of all time—is as astonishing as his subject. In his chronicle of her rich, adverse, and inexplicable life and work he has, like a brilliant lepidopterist, managed to catch her and pin her down while preserving her elusive genius as an artist and a woman in the 20th century. (Jenny McPhee, author of The Center of Things )

[Stannard’s] magnanimity as a biographer allows [Spark] all her apparent contradictions, while his critical attentions do just what a literary biography should do: make the reader hungry to explore her works. (Frances Taliaferro - Wall Street Journal )

Starred Review. Stannard has dug deeply, and with keen and sympathetic insight. His prose is graceful and assured, his literary judgments discerning, and his biography is as definitive as we can expect to find. (Publishers Weekly )

A New York Times Editor's Choice: Thorough, judicious and insightful. (Charles McGrath - The New York Times )

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Having agreed at her request to write British author Muriel Spark's (1918-2006) biography, Stannard (Evelyn Waugh) has acquitted himself with distinction after a decade of researching the elusive author's transformation from a socially insecure would-be poet to a sleek, elegant, literary eminence. Spark became, Stannard concludes, a great comic artist of the macabre. Born in working-class Edinburgh, Spark was half-Jewish, which, contends Stannard, was a source of her life-long alienation and divided personality. A hasty marriage at 18, a difficult divorce, the permanent deposition of her son to live with her own mother, not to mention a conversion to Catholicism were all prelude to Spark's climb to literary fame, culminating in 1961 with The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Spark, hypersensitive, liable to turn on editors and agents with fury, was also a canny businesswoman whose contractual demands taxed the patience of everyone who dealt with her. Stannard has dug deeply, and with keen and sympathetic insight. His prose is graceful and assured, his literary judgments discerning, and his biography is as definitive as we can expect to find. 16 pages of photos. (Apr.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Despite the Wall Street Journal's high regard, most critics tempered their praise by acknowledging this biography's various flaws, including Stannard's flat, cliché-ridden prose and his puzzling silence on significant experiences in Spark's life, such as her long-term relationship with artist Penelope Jardine and the effect of her religious conversion on her novels. Stannard skillfully recreates Spark's turbulent early years and places her deftly within the mid-century literary, social, and cultural milieu to which she belonged, but his narrative loses its bearings in the whirlwind of her continual travels later in life. All complaints aside, Stannard's exhaustive research and the unprecedented access he was granted to Spark's life have yielded the most comprehensive account of the prickly and superstitious author we are likely to get.