Muriel Sarah Spark: The Ballad of Peckham Rye

(2807 words)

Spark said of her fifth novel, The Ballad of Peckham Rye (1960), that she wanted “to write something light and lyrical – as near a poem as a novel could get, and in as few words as possible” (“How I became a Novelist” 1960). Contemporary reviews of the novel emphasised its lightness, but not its “poetry”. A typical review in The New York Times, for example, praised, with faint damnation, Spark's “fresh comic style”. It declares: “[no] one is going to read any subtle meanings into her tale . . . . [The Ballad of Peckham Rye] rests firmly on gags and nothing more; but the gags have been concealed with ingenuity, the pace is swift, the characters . . . familiar enough” (…

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Scullion, Val. "The Ballad of Peckham Rye". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 31 July 2002
[, accessed 25 November 2015.]