A Turn of Events

Frank Kermode

  • Reality and Dreams by Muriel Spark
    Constable, 160 pp, £14.95, September 1996, ISBN 0 09 469670 5

Despite her obvious liking for complicated plots, Muriel Spark usually seems happiest when writing very short novels (which, it is true, often have complicated plots). Among her earlier novels it is The Public Image that Reality and Dreams most resembles, though they are separated by 28 years, and there are differences of tone. Once more she looks into, or down on, the movie business. In the older book the principal figure is an actress, without talent but with eyes that photograph so well that she becomes an international star. There is a good deal of bad behaviour, treachery and bad faith; everybody is, by the standards insinuated, inauthentic, and thus the movie scene on the via Veneto, with its adulteries, genuine or faked for publicity purposes, is silently contrasted with the other Rome which, in principle at any rate, has infallible access to truth.

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