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).