Episode

The New Yorker: Fiction

WNYC Studios and The New Yorker

Arts, Literature

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Literature 7
Arts 35

A monthly reading and conversation with the New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman.

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Joseph O’Neill Reads Muriel Spark

December 31st, 2014

Episode 194 of 228 episodes

In this month’s fiction podcast, Joseph O’Neill reads Muriel Spark’s “The Ormolu Clock,” which appeared in the magazine in 1960, when Spark was, O’Neill says, “at the peak of her powers.” The story portrays two rival guesthouses that sit beside each other in the Austrian mountains. One of the hotels (Hotel Stroh, owned by Herr Stroh) is falling into disrepair, while the other (Guesthouse Lublonitsch) is flourishing under the relentless work ethic of its owner, Frau Lublonitsch. Although Frau Lublonitsch owns many businesses and much land, she lives a spartan life. Her bedroom, however, into which the narrator steals a peek while staying at the guesthouse, is lavishly decorated with rich fabrics and the gilt clock of the story’s title. When the narrator notices Herr Stroh spying into her room from across the street, Frau Lublonitsch finds an unconventional way to defend her guest. “It’s a very weird story, in some ways,” O’Neill says. “It’s unclear where our sympathy or our understanding should ultimately settle.”

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