The crooked ghost: The Ballad of Peckham Rye and the idea of the 'lyrical'
journal contributionposted on 12.04.2019, 14:34 by M Stannard
This essay concerns the ‘lyrical’ in Muriel Spark’s writing, and its relation to what she termed ‘the nevertheless principle’. In her 1962 article, ‘Edinburgh-born’, she stated that her ‘whole education, in and out of school, seemed even then to pivot around this word. […] It was on the nevertheless principle that I turned Catholic’. ‘Lyrical’, too, had special meaning for her when describing her work’s numinous aspect, the aspect of eternity. How might these two concepts be related? By analysing The Ballad of Peckham Rye (1960) and Spark’s contemporaneous radio interview about it with S.M. Craig, Martin Stannard attempts to unpack Spark’s private critical language. Why did she describe her book as a ‘ballad’? In what sense is it ‘musical’? How might Christopher Holme’s and Tristram Cary’s modernist radio adaptation enrich our reading of the original text? Is the novel realist, modernist or postmodern? She always admired the work of Robbe-Grillet. How might Ballad be related to the nouveau roman, and to the idea of the narrator as ‘sighter’? Is lyrical sound important to Spark’s bifurcated creative imagination? Ultimately, Dougal Douglas is seen as an artist-figure, like Spark herself, orchestrating the commonplace, transfiguring it.