Kay's Reviews > Loitering with Intent

Loitering with Intent by Muriel Spark
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's review
Aug 01, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: audiobooks, modern-fiction, fiction
Read from August 01 to 04, 2011

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 her novels begin. She's forever making notes of stray phrases and scraps of life that she can work into her novels. While I don't know enough about Spark's life to say, I'd wager that Fleur is a poke at a younger self and her youthful literary pretensions.

At any rate, it's a fond poke, with Spark depicting Fleur as mostly sympathetic in her literary worries and abstractions. The plot of the book rollicks along, propelled by an assortment of oddballs and dingbats, not the least of whom (and my personal favorite) is Edwina, a cackling elderly embarrassment to her odious son, Quentin Oliver, who rides herd over the six members of the Autobiographical Society. The opening scenes, in which Fleur amuses herself by spicing up the pathetic and largely illiterate memoirs of these six are some of the funniest passages in the book. Then there are various poets and publishers, some of whom are recognizable, such as three august personages called the Triad, obviously based on Osbert, Edith, and Sacheverell Sitwell.

Loitering with Intent is a fairly convincing representation of how a novelist's mind works. It reminded me, in some ways, of another novel featuring an artist at work, Gulley Jimson of Joyce Cary's The Horse's Mouth. Both books show the novelist or artist so consumed by their current creations that little else seems to matter, and in both books there are numerous comic scrapes and escapades. Not to mention that both Fleur and Gulley have their wellsprings of inspiration -- in Fleur's case it's Cardinal Newman while in Gulley's it's William Blake.

I should mention that the main reason I started listening to this book was because it's read by the incomparable Nadia May, always a great favorite. She did (as always) an excellent job.
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03/21 marked as: read

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