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And she started casting around for female role models as she tried to get the male-dominated publishing world to take her seriously.One of her heroines was the eccentric poet Dame Edith Sitwell. I fear you will never belong to life's elite, or, as one might say, the creme de la creme.' The 1969 film The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie, with the wonderful Dame Maggie Smith in the title role, brought the novelist Muriel Spark to the attention of the whole world.Her obsession with her teacher's sex life chimed with everyone's memories of their teenage years, and the book was an instant success.The wedding night was a disaster, and when she became pregnant with their son Robin, SOS panicked and advised an abortion. 'A letter came to say his sister had to be committed to a bin,' she recalled later.'He hadn't told me there was madness in the family.
First, she suffered a breakdown - brought on by diet pills and relentless hard work. She became a Roman Catholic and stopped sleeping with her boyfriends, after deciding she was more interested in their minds than their bodies.
With her red hair and vivacious personality, she also turned the heads of several influential older men, including a married poet called Howard Sergeant, and the short, bald, macho critic Derek Stanford.
At the end of her life, she dismissed them as people who obviously had less talent than she had.
'A spoilt brat,' was her verdict on writer Virginia Woolf.
'All right, she committed suicide; but she didn't have to take the dog with her.' Spark knew exactly what she wanted - fame at any price.
Sandy, her errant pupil, was based on Spark herself, who had spent most of her adolescence dreamily speculating in class about Miss Kay's love life, and whether she had ever been kissed.