Back in January, I enjoyed Loitering With Intent by Muriel Spark. Immensely, as I have enjoyed all her fiction. But I ended my post on the book on an odd note about where author intrudes upon work. (Can't believe I am electing to quote myself.)
"Inside of this engaging and wickedly funny novel, we find Spark's own story written with the buffer of years between her own experience and Fleur's. Where art is established as the redeeming value of a life, a choice has been made in this regard, and the end product is worth the sacrifice of conventional comforts. But the unsettling part is not that choice itself but the feeling that Spark has re-written her own pain in order to put a shine on her own legacy. Fair enough. She owns both sets of material in question. But there is always something a little sad to me behind her sharp intelligence, her simple, well-phrased bluntness. As if her directness is not intended as bare-faced honesty but an attempt to disarm to discourage a deeper look behind her constructions."
This opinion of Spark was recently intensified when I read her slim volume of autobiography, Curriculum Vitae. From the very beginning where Spark repeats more than a few times that she is writing to offer facts in order to correct the false things that have been written of her, one's guard is up. The charming but obviously edited details of her childhood are seemingly calm and direct but readers of Spark will immediately be suspicious of what lurks behind, what remains unsaid, and waiting for the moment when the lady will pounce. It is a slow wind-up but Spark eventually unleashes a little retribution upon those who have wronged her all while preserving the image of her own inaccessible self. Fascinating. Can't be sure if she underestimates the intelligence of readers by offering this or she simply offers the story she chooses without regret or excuses. And does not give a damn whether you choose to accept her version of her life or not. The latter I think.
What I concluded after finishing the book was that the closest we might get to the essence of Muriel Spark is not here or in interviews or any of the personal papers she leaves behind but in her works of fiction. In Fleur Talbot in Loitering With Intent. In the students that surrounded Jean Brodie (the section of CV where she discusses her teacher that influenced the Brodie character is a highlight of the book). And I am sure in other places where I have not ventured yet. And the other thing that I concluded is that I simply do not want to know more than she wished us to know. As much as I enjoyed the recent biography by Martin Stannard, I felt awkward reading it as if peering in someone's windows out of untoward curiosity. Where one would feel shamed if caught.