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The Golden Fleece: Essays

Muriel Spark

Edited by Penelope Jardine

Cover of The Golden Fleece
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Categories: 20th Century, Women
Imprint: Lives and Letters
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (248 pages)
(Pub. Mar 2014)
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  • Description
  • Author
  • Contents
  • Reviews
  • The essays, reviews, memoirs and other writings collected here for the first time conjure up one of the great critical imaginations of our time. Grouped into four sections (Art and Poetry; Autobiography and Travel; Literature; and Religion, Politics and Philosophy), they demonstrate the wide range of Muriel Spark’s knowledge and interests, and throw into relief the people, places and ideas that inspired her throughout her life as a working writer. The book includes perceptive essays on literary figures including the Brontës, Robert Frost, T. S. Eliot and Robert Louis Stevenson; engaging accounts of visits to John Masefield, Edith Sitwell, and Louis MacNeice’s home (in the absence of its owner); and reflections on the sermons of Cardinal Newman and the Old Testament book of Job as perennially rich sources of spiritual nourishment. The novelist’s eye for the telling detail is evident in portraits of the cities – Venice, Rome, Ravenna, Istanbul – which Muriel Spark visited or in which she made her home. As Penelope Jardine puts it in her preface, this book ‘tells many things’.

    Part I. Art and Poetry
    The Golden Fleece 
    The First Christmas Eve 
    Ravenna: City of Mosaics 
    The Art of Verse 
    Ruskin and Read 
    Robert Burns 
    Andrew Young 
    Giacomo Manzù 
    The Desegregation of Art. The Blashfield Address to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, New York 
    The Wisdom of Mr T.S. Eliot 
    Ingersoll Foundation – T.S. Eliot Award 
    Pensée: T.S. Eliot 
    The Complete Frost 
    John Masefield 
    Decorative Art 
    Poetry and Politics 
    Emily Brontë 

    Part II. Autobiography and Travel
    My Most Memorable New Year’s Eve 
    When I Was Ten 
    Pensée: Scottish Education 
    My Book of Life 
    Note on My Story ‘The Gentile Jewesses’ 
    The Celestial Garden Party 
    What Images Return 
    Comment on ‘The Poet’s House’ 
    The Poet’s House 
    Footnote to ‘The Poet’s House’ 
    My Madeleine 
    How I Became a Novelist 
    The Writing Life 
    Living in Rome 
    Tuscany By Chance 
    The Sitter’s Tale 
    Italian Days 
    The David Cohen British Literature Prize, 1997 

    Part III. Literature
    How to Write a Letter 
    Our Dearest Emma 
    Passionate Humbugs 
    Pensée: Biography 
    Fuzzy Young Person 
    The Brontës as Teachers 
    My Favourite Villain: Heathcliff 
    Mrs Gaskell 
    Mary Shelley. Proposal for a Critical Biography and Note 
    Mary Shelley: Wife to a Genius 
    Frankenstein and The Last Man 
    Shelley’s Last House 
    The Essential Stevenson 
    Robert Louis Stevenson 
    Celebrating Scotland 
    The Books I Re-Read and Why 
    London Exotics 
    A Drink with Dame Edith 
    Pensée: Miss Brodie on the Stage 
    The Short Story 
    Daughter of the Soil 
    Heinrich Böll 
    Eyes and Noses 
    Simenon: A Phenomenal Writer 
    The Book I Would Like to Have Written, and Why 
    Pensée: The Supernatural 

    Part IV. Religion, Politics and Philosophy
    Testament of Faith 
    All God’s Creatures 
    The Sermons of Newman 
    Newman’s Journals 
    An Exile’s Path 
    A Sleep of Prisoners 
    Psychic Searchlight 
    A Pardon for the Guy 
    The Religion of an Agnostic. A Sacramental View of the World in the Writings of Proust 
    The Only Problem 
    The Mystery of Job’s Suffering 
    An Unknown Author 
    Man’s Estate 
    Karl Heim: Two Important Works 
    Letter from Rome: The Elder Statesmen 
    Ritual and Recipe 
    The Next World and Back 

    Publishing History
    Part I. Art and Poetry 
    Part II. Autobiography and Travel 
    Part III. Literature 
    Part IV. Religion, Politics and Philosophy 

    Index of Names 
    Muriel Spark
    Muriel Spark was born in Edinburgh in 1918. After some years living in Africa, she returned to England, where she edited Poetry Review from 1947 to 1949 and published her first volume of poems, The Fanfarlo, in 1952. She eventually made her home in Italy. Her many novels include Memento ... read more
    'The style is bracingly familiar – beady, ironic, acidulous... She is an astute critic.'
    Anthony Quinn, Daily Mail
    Praise for Muriel Spark 'Mysterious, haunting, meticulously wrought.'
    Stand Magazine

    'Spark achieves precisely what she sets out to: no surprise to us now but pretty impressive given that this was her first book.'
    Zoë Strachan, Scottish Review of Books
    Like all her work, surprising, beautifully written, and with unnerving glimpses into the abyss which lies, always, beneath our feet.
    - John Mortimer, Evening Standard
    'The marvellous thing about Muriel Spark's writing is never gets knotted up in its own so-sharp-she'll-cut-herself cleverness. Spark's writing has a subtle merriment about it, a lightness of touch, a willingness to share in fleeting moments of mundane love and pleasure.'
    Jenny Turner, London Review of Books
    'Like all her work, surprising, beautifully written, and with unnerving glimpses into the abyss which lies, always, beneath our feet.'
    John Mortimer, Evening Standard
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