Last night, I was part of a panel on the late novelist Dame Muriel Spark, in concert with the publication of The Informed Air, a collection of her essays. In no way am I an expert, but I am a devoted fan—more and more as I get older—and I was glad to take part in the celebration of a writer who should be more widely read.
As anyone on the East Coast knows, yesterday was characterized by lashing rains and driving winds—a fact that sort of explains why I was dressed like an old salt in a fisherman’s sweater, wellies, and slicker. (Emphasis on sort of. I put on some red lipstick to make it look as though the whole thing was dashing and deliberate, but I don’t think anyone was fooled—or cared.) In spite or maybe because of the monsoon-like conditions, it was a lot of fun, and I came away with a new appreciation for an author whose work is as notable for its guarded compassion as what John Updike termed its “sweet sting.”
Everyone agreed that Spark is frequently hilarious. At least, we thought so. In the course of the conversation, my friend Emily and I discovered that in recent months both of us had attempted to read particularly amusing passages aloud to respective boyfriends, and the men in question were completely unmoved. She wondered if it was a British-American thing; I wondered if it was a male-female thing. Whatever it was, it was awkward. Read More