Loitering with Intent

By Muriel Spark

Synopsis

"How wonderful to be an artist and a woman in the twentieth century," Fleur Talbot rejoices. Happily loitering about London, c. 1949, with intent to gather material for her writing, Fleur finds a job "on the grubby edge of the literary world," as secretary to the peculiar Autobiographical Association. Mad egomaniacs, hilariously writing their memoirs in advance—or poor fools ensnared by a blackmailer? Rich material, in any case. But when its pompous director, Sir Quentin Oliver, steals the manuscript of Fleur's new novel, fiction begins to appropriate life. The association's members begin to act out scenes exactly as Fleur herself has already written them in her missing manuscript. And as they meet darkly funny, pre-visioned fates, where does art start or reality end?

Year of Publication

Review

All of Spark’s novels are stiletto-sharp and icicle-cold, and Loitering With Intent shows her at her frosty, pointed best. Fleur Talbot takes a job ghosting memoirs with Sir Quentin Oliver’s Autobiographical Association, and finds that he has devilish plans for how to use the information his members reveal. Spark sets truth against fiction and crime against sin in a parable of ethics. -- Stuart Kelly