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Day 8

Finish Ch. 4, pp. 92-104

October 8, 2020 by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum

Blood tells: Miss B divests this phrase of any pejorative sense, proudly claiming her wild ancestor. “He died cheerfully on a gibbet of his own devising” recalls being hoist with one’s own petard. Either gruesome end could describe Miss B’s downfall.

There’s something plainly witchlike about the excitement and insistence with which Miss Brodie feeds Mr. Lowther. Lobster salad, liver paste sandwiches, cake & tea, porridge & cream. An astonishing array of cholesterol. “You must be fattened up, Gordon.”

She’s also like a fairy tale giant: “Miss Brodie was doing something to an enormous ham prior to putting it into a huge pot.” Their affair seems doomed by incongruities of scale: grand and heroic Miss B, short and slight Mr. Lowther. They don’t fit.

Parul Sehgal: “[Spark] loves reminding us that every word—this phrase, that comma—was brought together by human hands, for your pleasure.” And her characters love discussing word choice, phrasing, etymology, usage: “The word ‘like’ is redundant…”

Spark keeps returning to Mr. Lloyd’s arm for comedy. On him looking romantic: “‘I think it was his having only one arm,’ said Jenny. ‘But he always has only one arm.’ ‘He did more than usual with it,’ said Sandy.” Irreverent Spark never tires of the joke.

Spark does nature sparingly, but she makes it count: “There was a wonderful sunset across the distant sky, reflected in the sea, streaked w blood & puffed w avenging purple & gold as if the end of the world had come without intruding on every-day life.”

At the bottom of p.103, a virtuosic single-sentence paragraph moves us cruelly from elation to disgust. A beautiful, spontaneous expression of youth and freedom—the girls running down the beach—resolves darkly into Miss Brodie’s holiday plans with Hitler.

Though Spark doesn’t make a big fuss over it, I keep noticing how lovely Sandy &Jenny’s friendship is: their closeness & loyalty; their compatibility as co-creators; their holidays spent following the sheep about, full of fresh plans & fondest joy.

Spark’s childhood best friend was named Frances Niven. Here are some lovely archival glimpses of their friendship, as well as the girls’ school and the teacher that inspired the writing of Spark’s novel.

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