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Mean Girls // Liana Liu

Up until six months ago, I had never read anything by Muriel Spark. I had heard of her, of course, and thought I knew a couple of things about her. For example, I knew she was from Australia (wrong). And I knew she was a historical romance novelist (wrong, wrong). Where did I get these ideas from? I cannot remember. Probably from guessing. I am an inveterate guesser which might be why I get lost ALL THE TIME. But that is beside the point. Let us talk about Muriel Spark!

spark.jpgThe first Muriel Spark book I read was Loitering With Intent, about a girl writing a novel who finds that the events in her life begin conforming to the events in her book. Delightfully meta, but not my favorite. A couple months later I read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie which was totally my favorite. Crazy ladies, crazy girls, crazy talk! Oh, I loved it! The reason why I thought Muriel Spark was a romance novelist was probably because I "guessed" it based on the title The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Come on, you know that sounds like a romance novel. But it totally isn't! In fact, it's the opposite! I especially admire the physical character descriptions and the way Spark uses repetition to build the story. Plus, crazy talk!

Most recently, I read The Driver's Seat which may be my favorite of the three because it is so out of control. Fantastically vicious. Amazingly terrifying. And strangely poignant. The story focuses on Lise, a woman who seems deranged. But her odd behavior is presented without comment, forcing this reader into a state of paranoia; as I read I was constantly asking myself, Is this weird? Or am I the one being weird? It was just like the first date I ever went on: I was fifteen (late bloomer, obviously), we were at the mall, we watched a scary movie, his popcorn-greased hand came upon my knee and I froze. Oh goodness, the anxiety! That's how I felt during all 107 pages of The Driver's Seat.

To give you a taste, here's how it starts:

'And the material doesn't stain,' the salesgirl says.
'Doesn't stain?'
'It's the new fabric,' the salesgirl says. 'Specially treated. Won't mark. If you spill like a bit of ice-cream or a drop of coffee, like, down the front of this dress it won't hold the stain.'
The customer, a young woman, is suddenly tearing at the fastener at the neck, pulling at the zip of the dress. She is saying, 'Get this thing off me. Off me, at once.'

Don't you want to read more? Read more.