Loitering with Intent

I meant to write about our last book group meeting earlier than this, but got distracted by missing keys, artwork for sale, etc. The book was Loitering with Intent, by Muriel Spark. Here's a very brief description: the main character, Fleur (great name!), has just gotten a job as secretary to a support group for a bunch of losers some people who are writing their autobiographies. Part of Fleur's job involves altering the memoirs to make them spicier, tee hee. At the same time, Fleur is writing her own first novel. Things happen (says Fleur: "I dearly love a turn of events"), and it becomes apparent that real life is beginning to resemble Fleur's novel. The lines between fact and fiction, cause and effect, get blurry . . . .

The interesting thing about Loitering is that while you have this theme of false/edited/spiced up autobiography, the novel itself is written in the form of Fleur's autobiography. In fact, I kept forgetting that it wasn't a true autobiography. The picture of Muriel Spark on the back—I searched the web for a copy to download, but couldn't find it, and I've already returned the book to the library so I can't scan it, but honestly, you'd love this picture and maybe I'll go back to the library just to get it, and sorry for this huge long run-on aside—anyway, the picture of Muriel Spark on the back shows this charmingly gamine, sly-looking woman who fits the character of Fleur perfectly. So perfectly that I'm crazy to read something else—anything—by Spark just to see how it compares to Loitering. How much of Fleur is really Muriel . . . or not?

John Henry Cardinal Newman
And another thing about the false autobiography theme: throughout the novel Fleur talks about two famous autobiographers: Benvenuto Cellini, and John Henry Cardinal Newman. I'd never heard of the latter, so of course I looked him up. Turns out he was an Anglican priest who converted to Catholicism, as did Muriel Spark. Fleur swears that his is the greatest autobiography ever written. And here's the really interesting thing: Father Newman wrote his entire autobiography, Apologia pro Vita Sua, as a response to an accusation that he believed that truth is not a virtue. Go figure!

I really enjoyed this book. Fleur is a wonderful character. She's a survivor, cynical, but with a marvelous sense of humor and joie de vivre. I especially loved her disgust with the kind of people we used to call "posers." She'd be so fun to hang out with.

Next month: Atonement by Ian McEwan.


  • Now this is really embarrassing to admit, but I read this book years ago and have NO recollection of it at all. NONE. In fact, I've read several Muriel Sparks books and can remember only The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Memento Mori. Sad.

    I'll have to revisit this one, and hopefully it will make a more lasting impression the second time around!

    posted by Blogger Suzanne on 9:12 AM  

  • Hi there,
    I found your blog through a Google search on Muriel Spark, having just discovered her through "Loitering with Intent". I'll come back to comment once I've finished reading the book.

    Now, Shameless Plug time: I've just started a book-discussion blog, and the first book is The Great Gatsby. Feel free to visit and participate at


    posted by Blogger Lynette Adams on 8:55 AM