Review: Loitering With Intent by Muriel Spark #ViragoBooks

Loitering With Intent by Muriel Spark

"How wonderful to be an artist and a woman in the twentieth century," Fleur Talbot rejoices. Happily loitering about London, c. 1949, with intent to gather material for her writing, Fleur finds a job "on the grubby edge of the literary world," as secretary to the peculiar Autobiographical Association. Mad egomaniacs, hilariously writing their memoirs in advance—or poor fools ensnared by a blackmailer? Rich material, in any case. But when its pompous director, Sir Quentin Oliver, steals the manuscript of Fleur's new novel, fiction begins to appropriate life. The association's members begin to act out scenes exactly as Fleur herself has already written them in her missing manuscript. And as they meet darkly funny, pre-visioned fates, where does art start or reality end?

This was my first book by Muriel Spark, so I had no idea what to expect. I really enjoyed it and if you like witty books and metafiction, there is a big chance you would enjoy this, too.

It's about writing and the creative process in general. How can we say whether art becomes reality, or whether it's the other way round. And can we tell the difference between reality and fiction? It's so cleverly crafted, it's an absolute joy to read it. Though I guess writers might enjoy this book more than other readers.
It discusses creative people and it shows that it is more acceptable when the artist is a man. But when it's a woman like Fleur? Shock horror! There are several moments in the book where Fleur's frowned upon (by other women) for wanting to be a writer and (shock horror again) has no intention to get married because of that. And you know, she's not really womanly and she's hard and blah blah blah. For me Fleur was a very likeable character, but then again I understand her well. She didn't seem hard to me, she actually did care for her friends (the real ones anyway) and was overall polite. I totally enjoyed her relationship with Sir Quentin's mother, Edwina. Like Fleur I think Edwina was one of the few real people in this book.
Also, this book reads like an autobiography and it makes me wonder: how much of this is based on Spark's real life and how much is just fiction?



DMS said...

I hadn't heard of this one before. It sounds great and definitely different than most of the books I have read. Thanks for sharing. :)

Jasmine Jones said...

The novel is also a celebration of applied self-knowledge and the self-confidence that evolves from it: Fleur repeatedly realizes "what a wonderful thing it was to be a woman and an artist in the twentieth century," and, regardless of the formidable enemies positioned against her, continually "goes on her way rejoicing."

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