Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Life and Opinions of Barbara Pym, Gentlewoman

It's no secret that I'm a fan of Barbara Pym. I think she's a wonderfully perceptive and comic writer, displaying an amazing economy in her sentences, characterizations, plots, and choice of settings and subjects. So this passage, from her diary (I'm stretching January's theme of letters to include it) entry of April 11, 1943, has brought me much amusement--as the book she's referring to is Tristram Shandy:
It seems a nice inconsequential sort of book--the sort of book one would like to have written--or might even one day write.
The mind boggles? What on earth would Tristram Shandy be like written by Barbara Pym? A hell of a lot shorter, that's for sure.


  1. I wish we could read a whole library of the world's great books as written by Barbara Pym.

  2. Thanks for sharing this wonderful passage from Pym. I'm in the midst of reading Tristram and am delighted, but not surprised, by Pym's understated irony.

  3. I can sort of see what she was thinking of - I mean, despite totally different styles, they did share a view that most human activity is fundamentally comic. Reversing the idea, Excellent Women as told by Laurance Sterne would be something to see as well.

  4. Oh, you folks are giving me such ideas! The temptation to take the first page of Excellent Women and try to rewrite it . . . it's astonishing that I was able to sit at my desk and get any work done at all today with that thought hovering over my shoulder!