Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Recent Discovery: Barbara Pym

This short novel is altogether perfect! I'd heard the name Barbara Pym for decades but had no idea what sort of books she wrote. Then Philip Larkin, whose collected letters I read recently, wrote of her that she was "vivacious and funny and observant," and that she wrote "ordinary sane novels about ordinary sane people doing ordinary sane things ...." To a publisher, urging that the novel pictured above be accepted for publication, he wrote, "In all her writing I find a continual perceptive attention to detail which is a joy, and a steady background of rueful yet courageous acceptance of things ..." I knew that Philip Larkin, one of my favorite poets, as well as one of my favorite curmudgeons, wouldn't lead me to anything but excellence.

I would add that her approach to surprises is delightfully subtle!

I loved Quartet in Autumn so much that in our small town library I smiled at a shelf when I counted twelve additional Barbara Pym novels on it. I'm all set for a while. Plus I think the shelf smiled back at me.

(Morning After Postscript: Last night, reading Barbara Pym's diaries, part of a miscellany of her writings titled A Very Private Eye, I learned that she was, as she put it, besotted by Denton Welch; he is also one of my favorite writers. It figures.)

[It figures is italicized because, having come awake at 2:30 and being unsuccessful at returning to sleep, I had lots of time to read more Pym and to think about words. At about 4:30 I became awash in the charm of "it figures" -- the term is arithmetical, or it is philosophical, or it is casual, or it is as precise as a puzzle.]

1 comment:

  1. I love Barbara Pym! I think I've read everything she's written, but it all runs together now.