Muriel Spark

Day Three

Out of my box of short stories in the making I have fished out the last two. They both look promising but are unfinished. One is entitled “The Young Man Who Discovered the Secret of Life,” and the other is “The Ghost That Was a Terrible Snob.” They have been lying around for some time. It has occurred to me that I might make one story out of the two. But how? The first story brings us to the point where Ben, a plasterer’s apprentice, having discovered the secret of life, wants to confide in a philosopher whose house he visits. Somewhere in the story is Genevieve, slim and fair, a designer of scarecrows. I got stuck at this point as I didn’t yet know what Ben’s secret of life was. In the second story, there is a sad ghost haunting the narrator.

“Psychoanalyse the crazy pavement,” says the ghost.
“What are you?”
“A terrible snob,” says the ghost.

So it goes on in this vein. I have been trying for hours to reconcile my two stories. I try to forget the stories’ original titles so as not to be restricted. Many works of literature, after all, do not exactly fit the titles. War and Peace is not about war and peace; it is about war and domesticity (portrayed as a far-from-peaceful affair). Somehow, if I’m going to salvage these, I must find some common ground between Ben, Genevieve, the philosopher, and the ghost. …

Tomorrow, as the famous line goes, is another day. …