This week on the SLIC blog our Project Officer Sarah Harmon talks about her involvement in the centenary year of Scottish writer Muriel Spark, and her appreciation of Spark's writing.
February 1, 2018 marked the 100th birthday of Dame Muriel Spark, one of Scotland’s best-known writers. While celebrations unfolded across the nation, and the globe, I was attending the Muriel Spark Symposium at Glasgow University. It was fantastic to see so many academics from far-ranging disciplines exploring many different facets of Spark. One of the many highlights included an overbrimming enthusiasm for Spark by Ali Smith in conversation with Zoe Strachan. The symposium sits alongside other great events including the exhibition at the National Library of Scotland, walking tours and numerous smaller offerings, many linked with Sabrina Leruste, the official Muriel Spark 100 Coordinator successfully bringing Spark to the fore.
SLIC’s involvement in the Muriel Spark 100 celebrations has been an eye-opener to the wide-ranging responses to this Edinburgh-born author’s work. Last year we reached out to our member libraries to ensure that Muriel Spark was well stocked and available to the public across the country. In January we supported the BBC #LovetoRead feature on Muriel Spark, providing content on reading beyond Spark with much success in promoting to wide and new audiences. Currently we are liaising with our public library and school members, supporting and promoting events and programmes celebrating Spark through her centenary year. Later this year we hope to reveal other projects currently in the works, so stay tuned!
For someone who (until recently) had never read Spark, this has been quite the adventure so far. Now acquainted with many short stories and poems as well as The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and The Girls of Slender Means, I was surprised at just how engaging and natty her characters were, the depth of each story totally outweighing its slim stature.
One of the biggest surprises is how accessible Spark’s work really is - I think that anyone could pick up a story and discover recognisable characters, relationships and settings. She is crafty and witty, with a dark temperament that leaves you guessing where she will lead her characters next. I wonder now at the perception that Spark is dated, a set text for school students, or perhaps, too old for high school readers. The further I read into Spark, the more I feel her writing is timeless - as fresh and relevant now as it was on first publication.
I hope that throughout the centenary year this perception will fall away, revealing Spark’s work as a glittering, deep microcosm of both her own time, and ours now.
Photo of Muriel Spark’s 100th Birthday Cake at the Muriel Spark Symposium, Glasgow University, February 1 and 2, 2018.