Ch. 5, pp. 105-121
October 9, 2020 by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
Dierdre Lloyd, alt-version of Scottish womanhood: peasant clothes, languid & long-armed, unbothered & informal. Miss B, Miss Lockhart, Dierdre: studying non-parental adults is such a big part of growing up, a key to figuring out who & how you want to be.
Miss Brodie’s role as Mr Lloyd’s muse is made amusingly literal in one portrait after another (I have a dim memory of this effect being grotesque in the movie), while Dierdre is in the thankless role of artistic helpmeet: “We swathed her in red velvet.”
Any romantic notions I might have had about Teddy Lloyd are shattered by his disgusting wet kiss & vicious words to Sandy. Similarly, any faith I might have had in the integrity or merit of Miss B’s “great love.” Spark disabuses me swiftly & severely.
The cozy bohemian chaos of the Lloyds’ home life—also the dangerous erotic energy circulating between adults and adolescent girls—reminds me of one of my favorite Deborah Eisenberg stories, "The Custodian.”
Spark’s word choices always land just right, managing never to sound contrived or fussy. Miss B “refused him all but her bed-fellowship & her catering”—a very funny but also utterly precise & revealing way of describing the sex & food she provides Mr. L.
As the girls age & grow apart, as Miss Brodie’s schemes further distort her, I begin to miss the earlier chapters’ buoyancy & verve—Paul Lisicky’s lovely term is “comic snap”—I notice more summary & explanation, pieces being moved around the chess board.
But still the explanations dazzle: “she began to sense what went to the makings of Miss Brodie who had elected herself to grace in so particular a way and with more exotic suicidal enchantment than if she had simply taken to drink like other spinsters.”
“They all belong to the Fabian Society & are pacifists”—GB Shaw also belonged to the socialist organization, which advocated for gradual reform & not revolutionary overthrow. Militant Miss B (“gladiator w raised arm & eyes flashing like a sword”) scoffs!
“He had confidence in Miss Lockhart, as everyone did, she not only played golf well and drove a car, she could also blow up the school with her jar of gunpowder and would never dream of doing so.” I love the implication that Miss Brodie very well might.
Ch. 2, pp, 13-26 (through “'That is the order of the great subjects of life, that’s their order of importance.'”)