In the Spirit of Spark

Ali Smith
Polygon £4.99

The Abbess of Crewe

Muriel Spark
Polygon £9.99
by SRB

Books of the Year 2018- A Literary Advent Calendar

December 14, 2018 | by SRB


We’ve asked Scotland’s leading writers, booksellers, festival directors and critics to pick one, or two, books — published this year or in the past — that they most enjoyed reading in 2018. There will be new selections every day throughout December — so keep reading for great ideas about what to read next and visit your nearest high street bookshop to purchase your Christmas gifts! Today’s selection is from Alan Taylor.


I suppose I could try and pretend otherwise but the simple fact is that all the best books I have read this year are by Muriel Spark. The republication of her twenty-two novels – of which I am series editor – has surely demonstrated that Spark was nonpareil and sui generis. No one wrote like her before she came along and no one writes like her now. She belonged to no school and has inspired none. Read the opening page of any of her novels and you realise that you are immediately about to spend time in the company of the greatest female artist this small country has ever produced. There is one writer, however, who deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Spark and that is Ali Smith. As well as contributing the introduction to the new edition of The Abbess of Crewe, Smith delivered the annual Muriel Spark Society Lecture, which those who first heard it at the National Library of Scotland will attest was as fine and memorable a tribute to a fellow writer as one could hope to hear. Like Virginia Woolf’s great essay, A Room of One’s Own, it deserved to find a much a wider audience and it has. In the Spirit of Spark (Polygon, £4.99), a transcript of Smith’s talk, sings and sizzles from first sentence to last, just like one of its subjects own fabulous and fantastic fictions.


Alan Taylor is the Editor of the Scottish Review of Books.

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