Dame Muriel Spark

Dame Muriel Spark

A weeklong electronic journal.
Dec. 11 1996 12:30 AM

Dame Muriel Spark

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       I am watching a TV documentary about child labor--mainly in South America. It's heart-rending to see these lovable children being deprived of their childhood. Memories are the only certain thing we can bequeath to children: They should be happy ones. But what I find equally distressing (or even more, because it is cloaked in a false well-being) is our Western habit of employing children to push our merchandise. Not only drugs on the street corners of Naples: I mean right in front of our eyes, on television, in TV plays and soaps and serious films. What are these hordes of lovely child-actors going to grow up to expect from life? How are they, looking back, to distinguish the "must be there on time" of studio work from forced child labor, pure and simple? How are they to know that acting and looking cute mean very little to the great and valuable future adult world they are entitled to enjoy? Where will their childhood have gone? What happens to their pay? Is it at least put in the bank for them, at interest? How many child-psychiatrists do these child-actors keep in business? Personally, I greatly dislike seeing children employed in the entertainment business, even more in advertising.

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       He has a beard and a man-friend. He is a painter. Sometimes they come to our house for dinner, sometimes we go to theirs. Both cases involve going downstairs to the dining room. Why do I always dislike descending in advance of the men? I have a fear of being pushed from behind. Why?
       In our friendship there is an unspoken hostility which perhaps only I feel. It could be imaginary, but that is not the point. Going down to dinner, I cling to the handrail. I cling tight.

Dame Muriel Spark is the author of 19 novels, including The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Memento Mori. Her autobiography, Curriculum Vitae, was published in 1993. She lives in Italy.