I’ve just finished Muriel Spark’s wonderfully acerbic novel, The Girls of Slender Means, about a group of young women living in a sort of Kensington hostel, The May of Teck Club*, “for the Pecuniary Convenience and Social Protection of Ladies of Slender Means below the age of Thirty Years, who are obliged to reside apart from their Families in order to follow an Occupation in London.”

The year is 1945.

It’s a book worth reading (a slender book, in fact) for its fantastically tight, elegant structure alone — but my favourite character was the fabulously craven publisher, Rudi Bittesch, whose strategy was to offer to publish an author, then bombard him with so many pages of demoralising criticism that eventually, feeling himself and his work to be worthless, the writer settles for publication on the worst possible terms.

As the shadow of recession looms, perhaps a worthy heads-up….?

*Just as an aside, any guesses on the origins of the name the May of Teck Club? It meant nothing to me, but May of Teck, apparently, was the familiar name of Queen Elizabeth II’s grandmother – otherwise known as Victoria Mary Augusta Louise Olga Pauline Claudine Agnes — wife of George V, mother of Edward VII (husband of Wallace Simpson).


7 thoughts on “World’s Worst Publisher?

  1. raych 8 years ago

    Muriel Spark is good things? I have always been conflating her with Nicholas Sparks in my mind, and avoiding her. This is, apparently, a damn shame.

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      Oh noooo. Bad bad conflation. Muriel is sharp, subtle, quite bleak in a way, highly intelligent. I sat down with this one at 11am and only got up when it was finished.

  2. Amanda Craig 8 years ago

    Muriel Spark one of my own favourite authors, but to be taken in small shots. Another awful publisher (based I beleieve on Anthony Blond for whome she once worked) in A Far Cry From Kensington. She writes the blackest of comedies and is never sentimental or inelegant.

  3. Meg 8 years ago

    I loved A Far Cry From Kensington. The books are little gems.

  4. Vivian Oldaker 8 years ago

    I remember loving “Memento Mori” when I read it many years ago. I’ve just noticed I have “The Ballad of Peckham Rye” on my bookshelves – probably my late mother’s copy – must give it a go.

  5. Bazza 8 years ago

    You’ve made me want to read this now! I only ever read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie; don’t know why I didn’t read more of Muriel Spark because I loved it.
    So many books – so little time.
    Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

  6. Minnie 8 years ago

    Oh, yes – one of my favourite books, too. And Vivian Oldaker’s right: ‘Memento Mori’ is definitely worth reading.

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