Reading Note:
Territorial Rights
24 October 2018

The latest book that I’ve re-read is Muriel Spark’s Territorial Rights, which I bought and read for the first time when it came out, in 1979. I bought it because (a) I hadn’t read any Muriel Spark yet, and thought I ought to, (b) the dust jacket featured a haunting watercolor by John Alcorn, and (3) I was looking for something like Daphne DuMaurier’s Don’t Look Now, or, rather, like Nicholas Roeg’s film adaptation of that novella. In this last, I was disappointed, because Territorial Rights, while mysterious in its way, isn’t at all spooky. And I was still too dense to discern Spark’s understated connections. But, because of the watercolor, I didn’t get rid of it. 

Nevertheless, we were parted for some time. I recaptured the book about ten years later, in a barn in Texas, where it had been sheltered since the breakup of my father’s household in Houston. I clutched it and carried it off to New York, where it sat undisturbed on various shelves for nearly a quarter of a century, until I pulled it down the other day. 

I much enjoyed reading it again. Territorial Rights is a very dry, very mordant ensemble comedy from a mistress of dry mordant comedies. The humor is almost entirely fixed in the language.

Amazon offers a couple of editions of the novel, but none with the Alcorn dust jacket.

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