Friday, 28 November 2014
Re-reading Barbara Pym
This week I have been re-reading Barbara Pym's "A Few Green Leaves", and "An Unsuitable Attachment". They get better and funnier on every reading and I shall try to find a couple of quotes to give a taster before the end of my blog
Ron took me on some of his calls yesterday. So it was a lovely, relaxed morning. We were trying to find a lady who stopped studying and coming to meetings due to family pressures, but who wants to come back. We didn't find her at home, but left a note, so she would know we are trying to contact her. And we were invited in by a very hospitable couple - both not at all well - and we swapped hospital stories, as well as consoling words.
Can't think what else I did. Studied in the afternoon - talked to my desperately ill and despairing facebook friend. And went to the meeting in the evening. I wish Ash (the fb friend) could have been beside me to be taught by the God of all comfort. We all need that teaching so much, but he needs it with desperate urgency. Anyway, I will keep emailing him, as he says he does like my emails. I have sent him my Sally poems (they are really verse, not poetry) as he too loves dogs. And I am trying to tell him what our hope is, as tactfully as I can.
Anyway, back to Barbara Pym. A.L.Rowse said: "I could go on reading her forever." Yes. And dare I hope that, in the paradise earth, when Jehovah wakes her from the sleep of death, she will go on writing - and we can go on reading her forever? Of course, we may not need fiction then. I don't know. But it will be paradise. And that is all we need to know for the moment.
Here is a taste:
"An Unsuitable Attachment" begins:
"They are watching me, thought Rupert Stonebird, as he saw the two women walking rather too slowly down the road. But no doubt I am watching them too, he decided, for as an anthropologist he knew that men and women may observe each other as warily as wild animals hidden in long grass."
Yes. The perfect harmony of Eden, shattered by that one act of deliberate disobedience, has come to be a necessary wariness.
The nuances of the English class system, exactly as they were then, in 1963, are so beautifully and lightly observed and described. But can the "unsuitableness" of John Challow, who is young, good looking, employed, and in love with our heroine, be comprehensible in today's world?
The unsuitability today might be that he isn't "buff" enough (horrid word), not tanned to the right shade of bright orange, and not earning enough to provide a designer-label lifestyle for our heroine.
And then there is the trip to Rome. Here is Edwin Pettigrew, the vet (veterinary surgeon, not old soldier), in Rome:
"Edwin Pettigrew looked around him perfunctorily, yet impressed by the sheer size of everything. He was not a believer, though he sometimes went to church out of politeness to Mark and Sophia. He had to keep reminding himself that this was a holiday which his sister had persuaded him to take because he needed it. Therefore he should be deriving benefit from it and the sight of so much gilt and marble must be doing him good. But his thoughts kept returning to the Aberdeen terrier he and Daisy had seen the evening before in the Via Botteghe Obscure. Such an unexpected sight, an Aberdeen terrier in Rome, and with an interesting condition of the tail glands which he had spotted immediately, though professional etiquette prevented him from drawing the owner's attention to it."