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A fifth column in Muriel Sparks' house

Posted by Christopher Shea  April 21, 2010 12:42 PM

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We're accustomed to reading about talented authors who treated spouses or lovers shabbily (though the details of such accounts are often contested): V.S. Naipaul, Martin Amis, Norman Mailer, Philip Roth. But, from the other direction, has any writer had to deal with a lover as treacherous as Derek Stanford, from whom the novelist Muriel Spark belatedly, mercifully, extricated herself?

According to Maud Newton, reviewing a new Spark biography (by Martin Stannard), Stanford, "perhaps her greatest love,"

... sold the letters she'd sent him, stole and did a small trade in her private papers, wrote a patronizing "biographical and critical study" of Spark and her work, and, until he died, published withering reviews of her books. Most unforgivable of all, though, he told her family of her secret breakdown. And publicly, he insinuated that her work was infected by madness.
It's trendy to say that American book reviews' conflict-of-interest rules sap some of the life from literary culture and that the British system, which tolerates feuds and revenge-reviews, is more honest. But seriously: For decades, newspapers and magazines gave Stanford, who died in 2008, a forum for serially trashing his ex-lover's novels?


muriel-spark.jpgMuriel Spark

N.B. Newton's review is the first example of a new content-sharing arrangement between the always-strapped-for-cash Salon and the surprisingly ambitious (and surely loss-leading) Barnes and Noble Review. In turn, the Review will publish some Salon pieces. And when you click on a book title at Salon from now on, it will take you to Barnesandnoble.com.


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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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