In Praise of Barbara Pym by Matthew Schneider
This article has been published in The New York Times. It begins:
Barbara Pym, the midcentury English novelist, is forever being forgotten, and forever revived. Her novels sketch a circumscribed scene whose anchors were the church and the vicarage, and the busy, decent Englishmen and -women (more women) who shuffled between the two. To read her, one must have an appetite for endless jumble sales and whist drives, and the interfering wisdom of dowagers and distressed gentlewomen.
Pym’s is an unsexy milieu, quaint even in her own time, and after publishing six novels between 1950 and 1961, she found herself unceremoniously dumped by her publishers. So began her first sojourn in obscurity. “This was the time when the so-called Swinging Sixties were starting,” she once said, “and I think quite a lot of publishers had the idea that the kind of thing I was writing was neither salable nor liked by readers.”