Memento Mori

By Muriel Spark

I am listening to this book on audio, in ten-minute chunks separated by large periods of time. I had been hesitant to pick this book up because my only other Muriel Spark experience was The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Now, I really enjoyed TPoMJB, but it’s told out of order in a very post-modernist way (I think it’s post-modernist). I knew in advance it would be hard to follow a book like that on CD.

Memento, however, is adorable. I love that they are the aging literati set, and I love all the fuss and bother. Even though I’m continually losing the momentum of the story (because I don’t drive that many places) I still manage to laugh aloud. Not hysterically… it’s not a romp or a farce–but in short bursts.

Plus a man is described as long, lean, bald, and sprightly. I hope I age so gracefully.

I think that listening to it without continuity either ruined the ending or it didn’t have a very good ending. I got the symbolism of everything–the lost notes etc etc (a funny scene at the house fire)–but I’m not sure what’ I’m supposed to make of it. Everyone dies, but people are old. Some young thing marries an old, wealthy one. It was all amusing vignettes but the thread of the narrative was lost. If I may be so precocious as to be intolerably clever, perhaps the book should have been called Momenti Mori. I think I should have read the book in one or two sittings; it certainly is the kind of book you could do so. I think the words and writing style would have added an atmosphere that breaking it up took away, and suffered for it. But I still liked it! I mean, she’s a very good writer. I am left with the question, though, if most of her books are like Prime or if that one is the anomaly. This book seemed like a pet project of the author growing old and making fun of herself and her friends. Not a serious work. I mean, it is good fiction seriously written as fiction, but it was lighthearted. In this book, the cataclysmic fire caused only psychological damage. Nobody burned alive.

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