Muriel Spark + Maggie Smith = a better January

Muriel Spark, Jean Brodie, Maggie Smith, and Downton Abbey feature in my most recent New York Times Magazine micro-column.

Smith is best known now for her role as the Dowager Countess, but she won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Muriel Spark’s dramatic and overbearing schoolmistress in the 1969 adaptation of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. It’s the perfect apéritif for the second season of Downton Abbey, which airs on PBS this Sunday. And obviously the novel is even better.

Speaking of drinks, if you’re looking for something wintry to cut the sting of January, and if you have good heat and don’t mind juicing a big bag of clementines, I recommend Rosie Schaap’s wondrous Bitter Darling, my last drink of 2011.


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