……….I read somewhere recently that the intended target of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” had been revealed as the record producer David Geffen and I was thoroughly disappointed by the news! I thought one of the enduring things about the song was the speculation and mystery about who had their hat “strategically dipped below one eye” and who always had “one eye in the mirror as [they]..watched [them self].. go by!” (Personally though I never met Carly Simon – obviously – I kind of harboured a secret ambition that rather than somebody exotic like Mick Jagger or Warren Beatty it might have been…well..em…me! )
Anyway reading Muriel Spark’s story The Snobs kind of reminded me of the song – because I kept speculating on who the snobs in the story might be – and then I realised that the candidates flicking through my mind were all people who I’ve known in my life. And that’s what’s so clever about this very sharp and cleverly observed story. In a handful of pages Muriel Spark captures perfectly, exactly what these people are like and it’s so well done you can’t help but flick through the snob register in your own head to see who best fits the bill! And in a lucid moment (only the one moment and it was a short one!) I realised that I can be a bit of a music snob myself!
The story has a biographical feel as Muriel Spark inserts herself into the story as a main character and from there it revolves around a couple of the worst snobs imaginable, Jake and Marion Ringer-Smith, who, having been found lost in the French village where they are travelling, are kindly invited to tea in the French château by a friend of Spark’s, who’s come into the ownership of the château by virtue of an obscure family inheritance which shifts her from bus drivers wife to lady of the manor.
It’s a pretty merciless caricature of pretentious middle-class English-ness (though I think we have a Scottish equivalent which we call “all fur coat and no knickers!”). She decimates these kind of people but it’s no more than they deserve!
“Marion was very much one of those. If challenged she would have thought nothing of pointing out that, after all, she had paid a plane fare to arrive where she was. I remember Marion’s shapeless cheesecloth dress and her worn sandals and Jake’s baggy, ostentatiously patched trousers, their avidity to get on intimate terms with the lady of the house, to be invited to supper and, no doubt, to be invited to stay the night!
I love that phrase “avidity to get on intimate terms”! It reminds me of a boss I once had whose attempts to get on with the ‘big’ boss were, well, avidity to get on intimate terms! It’s such a good phrase and not only more literate, it’s also more cutting the the basic phrase which went through my head at the time which was “arse-licker!”
Anyway, the story is full of these poetically sharp, almost destructive, phrases which are well worth a read and well worth remembering – that ex-boss of mine wasn’t the only snob I’ve come across so I’m sure these phrases will come in handy in the future!!