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Loitering with Intent

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  2,495 ratings  ·  329 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 Autobiographical Association. Mad egomaniacs, hilariously writing their memoirs in advance—or poor foo ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published June 17th 2001 by New Directions (first published May 22nd 1981)
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3.78  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,495 ratings  ·  329 reviews

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When I woke up this morning, a tiny fragment of dream lingered in my mind. I quickly grabbed what I could of it and stored it in a safe place — in my experience, such fragments can come in handy, as, for example, when I'm at a loss for an angle to begin a review.
And so it has proved in this case, one way or another, because what's immediately relevant here is that Muriel Spark, or at least the narrator of this book, Fleur Talbot, is constantly storing up fragments of life for future use in her
Violet wells
May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My first Muriel Spark. And I feel like I've finally discovered another British female author of genius. The most deliciously witty and clever book I've read all year. And what fabulous characters! It reminded me a bit of Nabokov, the hall of mirrors she creates around her narrator. One of the interesting things she said in a documentary I recently watched about her was that every book has a hidden author and that one of the first tasks of the writer is to work out who is writing the novel. She d ...more
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
This one’s a real LARK! I loved it.

Fleur is a struggling novelist - MIGHTILY struggling - in postwar London. All inspiration and no money. But inspiration won’t pay the gas bill, so she demeans herself and searches for work.

Well, she finds something QUITE promising very quickly. Something that can make real USE of her literary know-how! She jumps at the chance.

Sir Quentin is an odd old codger, and an odder choice of boss. But his Autobiographical Society seems quite above board.

But then she real
This was my fifth Spark novel, and perhaps the most entertaining so far. As always her writing is sharp and perceptive, and her characters quirky and interesting. This one centres on Fleur Talbot, an aspiring young writer who must be at least partly based on the young Spark.

The story starts when she gets a job with Sir Quentin Oliver, a minor aristocrat who has conceived an Autobiographical Association, whose members are expected to write candidly about their lives in manuscripts that will be lo
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
I NEVER thought I could pick one favorite author. Is Muriel Spark this for me? Maybe.

I have not come far in the book, but I am totally loving it. It is Spark's lines that I absolutely love. They are witty. They are intelligent. They make you laugh and they make you think.

At this point, wherever the plot may lead it just does not matter.

Spark humorously and wisely speaks about the art of writing.

I am regretting only that this piece is so short. I see now that I have already done half!

To top

What a delight this book was! Full of wit and musings on writing and writers, with a shrewd no-nonsense heroine, a colorful cast of secondary characters (Edwina is simply marvellous!) and an unexpected and entertaining plot. It is meta on so many levels I wouldn't even know where to begin. And that title! I am absolutely in love with it, both in and of itself and how it relates to the novel.
Gumble's Yard
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-mookse, 2018
I read this book due to its inclusion in the 2019 Mookes Madness tournament.

A book that was shortlisted for the 1981 Booker Prize - a prize of course won by the Booker of Bookers Midnights Children.

An entertaining and cleverly written book – which I would best categorise as a very deliberate mash up of 1950s farce, and early 1980s meta-fictional conceit.

The book serves as an interesting examination of two related creative processes:

(Auto)biography and memior – with Spark simultaneously (among
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
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Senryu Review:

Fiendish riff on the
novel in lean prose.
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Antonomasia by: Mookse Madness 2019 book tournament
The premise befits a nice Sunday evening TV drama - London, 1949: a young writer takes a job as secretary to an eccentric association of minor aristocrats working on their autobiographies - but it soon becomes apparent that this is more discomfiting than cosy. This happens with Muriel Spark books: I expect and want them to be cosy, and then they're not.

Fleur, the narrator, is very interesting, as are the varied responses to her in other reviews - among them 'likeable', and 'unreliable' (in the l
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: Violet wells
Shelves: fiction, scottish
I find Muriel Spark novellas the perfect reading choice when I’m exhausted, burned out, unhappy, or otherwise in a bad mood. They are always brilliantly written and centre upon women who respond to difficult situations and annoying people with incredible verve. The behaviour of Spark’s leading women isn’t necessarily something to aspire to in every case, but it’s always interesting, unconventional, and instructive. Thus they cheer me up. ‘Loitering with Intent’ is narrated by Fleur Talbot, an as ...more
Oct 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 10, 2010 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
Jan 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Nov 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
★★★★ — Fleur Talbot is an aspiring young writer who is passionately wrapped up in putting the finishing touches on her first novel, Warrender Chase. Since she cannot yet rely on her novel-writing to earn a living, she is forced to take a job with Sir Quentin Oliver, at his dubious organization called The Autobiographical Association. Sir Quentin, who likes to surround himself with titled individuals, has convinced a number of them to write their autobiographies, which are to be kept under wraps ...more
Aug 28, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Lady Drinkwell
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Miss Spark is an expert in taking what could be an ordinary little story and adding an extraordinary twist of bitterness to it. There is nobody quite like her. And like many Catholic writers of her generation she manages to bring a spicy touch of religion in which is very provocative.
Andy Weston
Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was recommended to me on the TLS Guardian forum after I enjoyed A Far Cry From Kensington. Similarly, it is about the world of book publishing in London just after the war, set in 1949-50. It takes a little bit of time to get going and warm to the characters. For some reason, as the narrator, Fleur, starts her story of the Autobiographical Associtaion I didn’t realise this was the whole plot, and was not paying full attention to the introduction of its members, and had to reread the sectio ...more
C.P. Lesley
Dec 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Paul Secor
May 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.

Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another wonderful gem by Muriel Spark. If I can generalize from just reading this book and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, she has a gift for jamming her books with rollicking fun, a sense of levity, witty prose, great dialogue, quirky but not too-quirky-to-be-real characters, all while examining some deep ideas. Her books are such a pleasure to read! Here, after much fun, I come away from it having meditated on art's relation to life and the line between fact and fiction, but not in a cliche way ...more
Ed Lehman
May 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It is the book I wish I could write. It oozes with passive favorite type of aggressiveness. The novel apparently is semi-autobiographical about Spark's life as she was trying to become a published author. What a cast of characters she depicts. You have to love Edwina..the aged mother of the literary villain...who will wet herself ...perhaps because she can't help herself...or maybe because she hates the person assigned to care for her. Spark's alter-ego in ...more
Nov 26, 2011 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 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 Stars

Of the Muriel Spark novels I’ve read so far, Loitering with Intent is perhaps the most playful. In some respects, there are similarities with Memento Mori, Spark’s wonderful social comedy on the challenges of ageing – another vehicle for her razor-sharp wit coupled with a dash of the macabre. I had a lot of fun with Loitering, a marvellous slice of metafiction about the work of writers and the fine line between fiction and reality.

To read my review, please click here:

Jan 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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).
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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
“[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.” 17 likes
“I see no reason to keep silent about my enjoyment of the sound of my own voice as I work. ” 11 likes
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