The Informed Air: Essays

The Informed Air: Essays


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Now in paperback, here are the sparkling essays of Muriel Spark, the writer of “the best sentences in English” (The New Yorker)

A fantastic essayist, the inimitable Muriel Spark addresses here the writing life, cats, favorite writers (the Brontës, T. S. Eliot, Robert Burns, Mary Shelley), love, Piero della Francesca, life in wartime London and in glamorous “Hollywood-on-the-Tiber” 1960s Rome, faith, and parties (on her first New Year’s Eve, as a baby sipping her mother’s sherry: “I always loved a party”).

No one was as “fearless and original” (TLS) as Muriel Spark, who believed that “art is an act of daring.” Here she glides from the mysteries of Job’s sufferings to Dame Edith Sitwell’s cocktail advice about how to handle a nasty publisher: “My dear,’ she said, ‘you must acquire a pair of lorgnettes, make an occasion to see that man again, focus the glasses on him and sit looking at him through them as if he was an insect. Just look and look.’”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780811227674
Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publication date: 01/30/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 580,699
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Muriel Spark (1918–2006) was the author of dozens of novels, including The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Memento Mori, A Far Cry from Kensington, The Girls of Slender Means, The Ballad of Peckham Rye, The Driver’s Seat, and many more. She became Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1993.

Penelope Jardine, a painter and sculptor, is the literary executor of Muriel Spark’s estate and was her best friend for many decades.

Table of Contents

Preface Penelope Jardine xi

Part I Life

My Most Memorable New Year's Eve 3

Note on My Story 'The Gentile Jewesses' 5

The Celestial Garden Party 7

What Images Return 11

Comment on 'The Poet's House' 17

The Poet's House 19

Footnote to 'The Poet's House' 25

John Masefield 29

The Writing Life 37

My Madeleine 41

How I Became a Novelist 43

London Exotics 47

A Drink with Dame Edith 51

Living in Rome 57

Tuscany by Chance 63

Part II Literature

When I Was Ten 71

My Book of Life 73

Pensée: Scottish Education 75

The Desegregation of Art 77

The Art of Verse 83

Pensée: T. S. Eliot 87

The Wisdom of Mr T. S. Eliot 89

The Short Story 93

Pensée: Biography 95

The Book I Would Like to Have Written, and Why 97

Pensée: The Supernatural 99

The Books I Re-Read and Why 101

Robert Burns 103

Emily Brontë 109

The Brontës as Teachers 119

My Favourite Villain: Heathcliff 129

Mrs Gaskell 133

Mary Shelley: Wife to a Genius 135

Frankenstein and The Last Man 143

Mary Shelley (Author's Note and Proposal for a Critical Biography) 153

Shelley's Last House 157

The Essential Stevenson 163

Robert Louis Stevenson 167

Celebrating Scotland 169

Simenon: A Phenomenal Writer 171

Part III Miscellany

The Golden Fleece 177

Eyes and Noses 183

Love 187

How to Write a Letter 191

Our Dearest Emma 195

Venice 197

Ravenna: City of Mosaics 203

Fuzzy Young Person 211

Decorative Art 213

Daughter of the Soil 215

Part IV Faith

The First Christmas Eve 223

A Pardon for the Guy 227

Ritual and Recipe 231

Letter from Rome: The Elder Statesmen 233

The Sermons of Newman 245

An Exile's Path 251

Newman's Journals 253

The Religion of an Agnostic 255

An Unknown Author 261

The Mystery of Job's Suffering 265

The Only Problem 273

Ailourophilia 275

The Next World and Back 279

Publishing History 281

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