Monday, May 3, 2010


From Charles McGrath's April 25th review of Muriel Spark: The Biography, by Martin Stannard, in the Times Book Review.

Spark was capable of showoffy writing, and in “The Takeover,” for example, throws in a little, seemingly just to show she can do it: “The whole of eternal life carried on regardless, invisible and implacable, this being what no skinny craving cat with its gleaming eyes by night had ever pounced upon, no tender mole of the earth in the hills above had ever discovered down there under the damp soil, no lucky spider had caught, nor the white flocks of little clouds could reveal when they separated continually, eternal life untraceable and persistent.”

This would be a case where a word performs its meaning, at least visually.

I don't know that I agree with the judgment rendered. When is writing showoffy, and when is it simply good?

A recent post by one Carol Rumens on the Guardian's book blog raised the idea of authorial reticence, specifically referring to one of Edwin Arlington Robinson's good poems:

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