The flight path of Muriel Spark is a wonder to behold. Her conviction was that the purpose of writing is to give pleasure, and in all her books she paid attention only to the innermost self that was her exclusive guide to that end. She had a poet’s instinct for the right form and a colloquial style all her own that allowed her to range the whole way from the comedy of manners up to the great unanswerable questions of the human condition. In an age when writers expect to be judged primarily by their sexual, social, and political commitments, and are therefore encouraged to be each one more shocking than the next, Muriel’s wit and independent mindset were conservative as well as revolutionary, that strange combination that surfaces when things go wrong. Since she was speaking for lots of people with hopes and fears like hers, she was successful—and deserved to be.

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