Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Not to Disturb by Muriel Spark


 “I'm old-fashioned beyond my years.”

The use of satire and irony are trademark characteristics Muriel Spark's writing although with this novella, her technique is not nearly effective, nor compelling as some of her other works such as "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" or even "The Comforters." After finishing, I could not help but ask myself: what does it all add up to? My conclusion is, not a whole lot. The story unfolds very much like a 19th century Romantic stage play by Joanna Baillie or Mary Robinson that is interested in gender relations while cheekily ridiculing the follies of the aristocracy but it lacks the emotional depth and complexity of her predecessors. Perhaps one could make the observation that Spark is playing with the Gothic genre although these conventions do not serve any particular purpose other than establishing the setting. Of course, such a criticism may seem questionable since Spark is working within a constrained narrative framework but there still lacks a considerable amount of potentially rich subtext that does not get fully developed. The prose consists of very little descriptive passages and the bulk of the story (or lack thereof) is driven by playful and witty dialogue that Spark is exceptionally capable of delivering. She attempts to cleverly explore the tensions between class hierarchy by focusing on the perspectives of the servants who work for the Baron and Baroness of a wealthy Geneva estate only to come up short in delivering any kind of substantial social critique.

Led by an inscrutable and devious butler named Lister, the household servants plan an elaborate and utterly bizarre plot to benefit from the tragic scandal of their rich employers by accumulating wealth and becoming glorified celebrities through the media as witnesses to a tragic incident that occurs late at night on the estate. Spark seems to be commenting on media culture and the way it is purposefully manipulated to benefit those in power (or those seeking to establish themselves amongst the echelons of society) in order to maintain their dominant ideologies. Unfortunately, the novella does not leave much room to explore this central theme in much profundity and instead, comes across as a mildly entertaining farce.



Read on April 3, 2012

8 comments:

  1. Oh, you should have saved this for Muriel Spark Reading Week from 23rd April! No matter ;)

    I agree - of the eight or so Spark novels I've read, this is easily my least favourite. I just found it baffling.

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  2. I haven't read any of her novels but she's on my Neverending-to-Be-Read list. April 23rd is Murial Spark reading week? Hmmmm . . . I may have to try to pace my reading to make room for one of her novels. Which would you recommend?

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  3. Stuckinabook - Oh cool,I'd be very interested to participate in the Muriel Spark reading week since I have really enjoyed some of her other novels and have been eager to read more of her stuff. Yes, this is also my least favorite Spark book, which is a shame because it seemed as if she was working towards something really great but by the end, the novel becomes absolutely ridiculous. Also, that ending...what the hell? I'm still trying to wrap my head around it but such an endeavor does not seem to be worth the effort, haha. Thanks for visiting my blog. :)

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  4. Hi Satia! I'm glad to see that you are still blogging away and I hope everything is going well. I took a little hiatus but hopefully I can find some time to read and write some reviews again.

    I'd highly recommend "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" which is an excellent little piece of fiction that really packs a punch with its brevity and wit. Spark is a great writer but I feel that she sometimes gets ahead of herself and her novels seem to lose focus and meander into trivialities or insipid subplots that have no relevance. However, with "Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" she manages to to get it right. If you are short for time, it is short and won't take too long to finish.

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  5. I'll see if I can grab a copy from the library. I've sort of obliged myself to reading more than I had planned and just yesterday found out that I'll need to take another course if I really want to find a job. (The certification I have is inadequate in this job market.) But I won't be starting school until the books arrive so I may have a couple of weeks of freedom before I have to buckle down again.

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  6. Satia - my absolute favourite so far is Loitering With Intent, but you can't go wrong with Miss Jean Brodie! (Plus the film is great.)

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  7. Although I own several, I've yet to read any of her books, although I will try them soon - I'm just waiting for Muriel Spark Week. But I wanted to welcome you back Jason - great to see that you're posting again.

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  8. Thanks Karyn! I look forward to reading your reviews when you get around to Mrs. Spark. The older penguin editions of her works have some really snazzy covers. :D

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