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Loitering with Intent

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  1,785 Ratings  ·  215 Reviews
"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 Autobiographial Association. Mad egomaniacs, hilariously writing their memoirs in advance—or poor fool ...more
Audio, 0 pages
Published September 1st 2002 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published 1981)
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Glenn Sumi
Muriel Spark is best enjoyed with a pot of tea and perhaps a biscuit or two. Her books are witty, civilized, and sharp. Not life-changing, exactly, but a pleasant enough way to spend a few hours.

Novelist Fleur Talbot looks back on her early years, particularly when she was working on her first novel, Warrender Chase. During that earlier time, she takes a job working for the Autobiographical Association, which got people to write their memoirs for safe-keeping. Fleur, ever the writer, uses artis
Julie Ehlers
I think how one feels about this novel is going to depend on how one feels about its narrator, Fleur Talbot. Fleur, an aspiring novelist, is plunked down among a group of odd characters and is clearly meant to be the voice of reason, but she also displays a fair amount of obliviousness to the feelings of others. I found this obliviousness to be one of the main sources of hilarity in the book, but I can certainly see how others might feel differently. Fleur also spends quite a bit of time describ ...more
MJ Nicholls
Senryu Review:

Fiendish riff on the
novel in lean prose.
Oct 28, 2013 Nicole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Re-read, still great.

He gave me a bulky list of the members' names with supporting biographical information so selective as to tell me, in fact, more about Sir Quentin than the people he described.

The memoirs written by the members of the Autobiographical Association, although none had got beyond the first chapter, already had a number of factors in common. One of them was nostalgia, another was paranoia, a third was a transparent craving on the part of the authors to appear likeable.

In those d
One can't take Fleur Talbot, the central character of Loitering with Intent, entirely seriously, but then I think that may be the point. Fleur is slightly ridiculous (as is just about everyone else in the book), but at the same time she's eminently likeable, with her forthright cut-to-the-chase impatience with pretense and middle-class snobbery.

Fleur, who believes it is a great thing to be an artist and a woman in the 20th century, has trouble at times distinguishing where life leaves off and h
Jan 12, 2008 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My love for Muriel Spark's writing grows and grows. I love this book. It's witty, clever, suspenseful, and hilarious, all in a perfectly new way.
Oct 10, 2010 Michaela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
Loitering with Intent is Fleur Talbot’s autobiography. It is Fleur’s story about the time when she was working as a secretary for Sir Quentin Oliver’s Autobiographical Association. While working there, Fleur was also working on her first novel, Warrender Chase. Written and constructed in a précis and straightforward way, with numerous beautiful repetitions that are always followed through; a superbly written story, recommendable to anyone.
As Fleur moves her story along we get to experience her
Loitering with Intent is a delightful, effervescent sort of story, but hard to put your finger on. For one thing, (and here I'm generalizing on the basis of just two of her books) Spark is at once an extremely exacting author--with sharp observations about characters and situations and a really well-defined sense of narrative and prose rhythms--while also seeming to be a rather carefree one. She reuses phrases that catch her fancy to excess (the "English Rose" designation gets really tired out i ...more
Douglas Dalrymple
I never used to read books written by women and was loudly blamed for it by several of my female friends. Over the past few years I’ve been making up for it. And what would I be today without Muriel Spark, Barbara Pym, Rebecca West, Christina Stead, or Rose Macaulay (especially Stead and Macaulay)? I’d be an even more incomplete human being than I already am.

Loitering with Intent was my fourth Spark. I consider it better than Memento Mori and as good as The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, but not nea
C.P. Lesley
Dec 09, 2016 C.P. Lesley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-readwomen
Unexpectedly delightful—witty and charming and, as the author would say, frank, in a way that is unusual for a young lady in 1949–50.

Fleur Talbot is a budding novelist, still unpublished, when she lands a job "improving" the uninspired productions of the Autobiographical Association in London. Through a complicated but funny (in every sense of the word) series of events, Fleur begins to suspect her boss of nefarious intent toward the members of the association. Little does she know that her own
Nov 26, 2011 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Writing is the best revenge.

Not that Fleur Talbot is a vengeful person!

I don't find this book dated at all. Yes, the main events occur in 1949-1950 in the Kensington area of London...but Fleur Talbot's description of what it is to be a writer rings universally true.

This book will send you looking for the autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini (in the Everyman edition) and for John Henry Newman's Apologia Pro Vita Sua, which I haven't even thought about since the sixties.

Many unforgettable charact
Vimal Thiagarajan
Nov 27, 2015 Vimal Thiagarajan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booker
Turned out to be an excellent introduction to Muriel Spark. Nothing huge in terms of a plot, but this is one of a very few books which I can point the old finger and say that it captures artistic temparament perfectly, beautifully and effortlessly. Its also punctuated with themes like life imitating art, memoir within a memoir, flashback of a flashback etc,and most importantly is told by one of the most charming characters that I've ever met in a book, Fleur Talbot. A very inventive novel and a ...more
Jan 21, 2011 Elisabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
Apparently this book is autobiographical, but i did not read it as such. The Prime of Miss Jean Brody is the work Muriel Spark is most famous for, but while i started that novel and never finished it, i read this book with delight and was sad to finish it. I won't give away anything, but will just say this book is hilariously and brilliantly written. It is such a light and exciting read that i wished it had been longer. Go enjoy it and be pleasantly surprised!
Ben Loory
Sep 24, 2011 Ben Loory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
once more, muriel spark makes me laugh really hard and then wonder if she's coming after me with an axe. not quite as good as The Driver's Seat, i don't think, but equally enjoyable (if more baffling).
Paul Secor
Fiction into fact? Fact into fiction? An unreliable narrator? Could be all or none of these. All I know is that it's witty, intelligent, and a pleasure to read.

Feb 01, 2009 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An aspiring novelist is enlisted by a gang of eccentrics penning their memoirs. Larks ensue. Articulates how the worlds of imagination and reality are locked in mutual appropriation.

"everything happens to an artist; time is always redeemed, nothing is lost and wonders never cease."
Aug 17, 2010 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
[read for a second time in January 2011 - just as mystifying the second time around!]

[very light spoilers] It wasn't until reading Loitering with Intent that I had this notion confirmed: a central theme to Muriel Spark's fiction is that of extreme narcissism among Britain's post-war social and intellectual elite. Also, here Spark is experimenting with metafiction, with the layers of reality and the relationship between life and art. Another technique that appears much more gradually and subtly i
Feb 08, 2009 Yofish rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sort of odd book. A little dated, maybe? Takes place in 1950 England. (Written in 1981.) Possibly auto-biographical-ish. Narrator (woman) takes a job as a secretary-type for an 'autobiographical' society--folks who think they're interesting and so want to write their autobiographies. She punches them up some. At the same time, she's writing a novel, and there are lots of coincidences about what happens in the novel and what happens to the 'society' people. Is the joke that she's only pretending ...more
J. Shimotake

A) Purchased at the Printer Row Book Fair based on the picture of the author and the paisley book jacket.

B) In general, being British is a bump in points. But a post-war British hipster girl who has an affinity for whiskey? Hot.

C) The book itself would be great if I were in college living in the "Art Dorm" and didn't have many friends. Lucky for me, I never was that kid...I never lived in the "Art Dorm."
Aug 21, 2007 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
I've enjoyed the Spark books I've read so far, but I had a tough time getting into this one. I'm not that keen on the "plot-within-plot" device - Fleur's novel sounded positively dreadful to me, but Spark does do satire well, so I'm assuming it was supposed to be that way. In my humble opinion, Loitering is for dedicated Spark fans. For others looking to go beyond her smash hit The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, I'd recommend Memento Mori or The Finishing School.
Ashley Lucas
Jul 16, 2009 Ashley Lucas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So funny! The main character is a secretary for an autobiographical society, and she helps them invent and embellish the stories of their lives. Sparks is incredibly witty. A quick read and lots of fun.
S Suzanne
Witty and amusing...not extremely memorable, but I did enjoy it. I found it charming and engaging, listened to it on audio - the narrator was great.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 24, 2007 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read06
A story about a woman who writes a story that gets stolen and then people start living it without her permission. Strange and quirky.
Jul 01, 2013 Jennie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, I'm in a definite book slump right now. I'm also regretting that I bought *four* Muriel Spark books without ever having read one (three were in an omnibus edition that was really cheap); this first exposure to her does not bode well for future attempts.

Fleur Talbot, the first-person narrator, is an aspiring novelist who likes to remind us from time to time that it's wonderful "to be a woman and an artist in the twentieth century." She takes a job as secretary to an eccentric man who runs a
Andrew Rowe
“One day in the middle of the twentieth century I sat in a graveyard” Loitering with Intent is a fictional novel written by Muriel Spark which is set in 1940’s London and recounts the memoirs of Fleur Talbot, would-be writer. Fleur works for an Autobiographical Association directed by Sir Quentin Oliver, as the novel progresses a debate arises; what is fact and what is fiction? The novel is written in the first person and through the point of view of the protagonist, Fleur. Spark does not change ...more
Patricia Bracewell
Perhaps this book just went over my head. Set in 1950's London, it is a first person narrative and, supposedly, a somewhat autobiographical novel. Fleur is a young novelist completing her first book. To earn a little money she takes a job as a secretary to an Autobiographical Society, and the story has much to do with the characters she meets in this organization.

Is it that I can't quite grasp the subtlety of British humor? Because this is supposed to be a funny - even hilarious - book. But I ke
Feb 25, 2008 Lynn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Engrossing, utterly entertaining. It is in the format of an autobiographical story of a brief period in the life of a novelist, whose novel resembled and became entangled very closely with the events in her real life. The events also have to do with a club of people who are writing secret, fictionalized autobiographies, which creates a prismatic effect. A book about a writer can seem like a lazy way for writers to write about themselves, but this is extremely well done and doesn't feel like a me ...more
Aug 11, 2014 Zora rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very funny in a particularly English way I don't have a precise term for. The main character is a writer who has taken a job typing/editing badly-written memoirs. She begins by inserting wholly invented sex scenes. At the same time she is interacting with the cast of oddballs, she's writing her own novel, which comes to be more and more a roman a clef about the memoir writers. The narrator is unreliable. Aside from the humor, this has some of the most accurate writing I've ever seen about what i ...more
Aug 20, 2016 Johanne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Oh it typified the worst of Ms Spark, weird crusty middle class characters all of whom are unlikeable; at the very least smug and arrogant and some worse. It is told as a retrospective set in the 1950's and time has not been kind to it. being a retrospective doesn't improve it at all ...I did wonder if it was an early novel published to top up an aging authors pension fund....It concerns a wanna-be writer and a under-employed people and they drift through a landscape of bedsits and unsatisfactor ...more
oh it's not her most brilliant but ms. spark's snarky self-and society critique is sharper and meaner than austebn, funnier than wodehouse. this slim movel is about a secretary who is hired to reconstruct the self-aggrandizing memoirs of duped elderly rich people. in the process, the narrator becomes a novelist herself, stealing their made-up stories. There is much smart philosophizing about the nature of writing and how life experience plays a part in it.
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Dame Muriel Spark, DBE was a prolific Scottish novelist, short story writer, and poet whose darkly comedic voice made her one of the most distinctive writers of the twentieth century. In 2008 The Times newspaper named Spark in its list of "the 50 greatest British writers since 1945".

Spark received the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1965 for The Mandelbaum Gate, the Ingersoll Foundation TS Eli
More about Muriel Spark...

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“[My novel] took up the sweetest part of my mind and the rarest part of my imagination; it was like being in love and better. All day long when I was busy [...], I had my unfinished novel personified almost as a secret companion and accomplice following me like a shadow wherever I went, whatever I did.” 13 likes
“I see no reason to keep silent about my enjoyment of the sound of my own voice as I work. ” 10 likes
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