Golden Hare Books hosted an insightful and touching event on the 5th April to celebrate Muriel Spark and the year marking the centenary of her birth.
The impressive panel consisting of Alan Taylor, Rosemary Goring and Candia McWilliam discussed Spark’s life, a number of her works and their participation in the Centenary Editions of Spark’s 22 novels.
Alan Taylor, who formed a strong friendship with Spark, spoke about his recent biography of the great novelist, Appointment in Arezzo: A Friendship with Muriel Spark, and revealed some charming stories of their times together.
Rosemary Goring and Candia McWilliam have each written an introduction to the Centenary Editions; The Girls of Slender Means and Robinson respectively; and share their analyses of the symbolism Spark uses along with the related themes in each novel.
To hear the discussion between them was enjoyable and allowed a greater understanding of Robinson and The Girls of Slender Means. It is special to see the two panellists, both writers themselves, learn from one another and bounce ideas between themselves, while at the same time appreciating their shared admiration for Spark.
The evening is filled with numerous entertaining tales about Spark’s life, leading to a story about Spark’s love of cats. According to Taylor, she “liked cats to a ludicrous degree” and “took them in as others take in orphans”. He recalls times when he visited her home and described it as if he were “stepping into a kind of Disney movie”! He also told of the countless witty and cutting remarks Spark used that solidified her reputation as a formidable and brilliant person.
During the Q&A, a question raises the issue of a sculpture to commemorate Spark in Edinburgh. Taylor responds with some frustration that Edinburgh famously has more statues of animals than of women and he has not heard any developments on the subject from the council. However, particularly now during the 100th anniversary of her birth, Taylor proposes that we push for a memorial in honour of the great 20th Century novelist who “hasn’t been served as well as she should have been, and we’re realising that now”.
To round off the evening, Taylor recounts the magic of Muriel Spark’s return to Edinburgh at the Book Festival in 2004. It is a moving and touchingly personal description of the event, one that allows the audience to clearly picture the presence of this celebrated and inspirational Scottish literary figure.
A wonderful evening of literary discussion, lots of laughs and a greater insight into the extraordinary life and works of Muriel Spark.
Polygon is republishing all 22 of Muriel Spark’s novels in attractive hardback editions: get your copies online or head over to Golden Hare Books in Stockbridge!
Feature by Kim Ford on behalf of Love Books Group Blog.
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