Posts Tagged ‘20th Century Literature’

we use the magazine to pump the book and vice versa


In the newest New Yorker we have rediscovered the ‘tack’ of John O’Hara, who happens to have the highest short story output for the magazine, in order to hype the re-release of his Depression-era novel from Penguin Classics. A grand waste of time? Yes, but only if you’re familiar with the author. This placement, it cannot be a ‘new thing’, is so J’en sais pas I have indeed vomited in my mouth once again. Though forgive me for ennui does certain things to a 32-year old man. In conclusion, simply, blah.


Evan Kerry

Aug. 2013

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This is the second book of Barbara Pym’s that I am reviewing for this blog.  It is set in a small English town that the titular Jane has just moved to. Prudence lives in London.  The book is told mostly over coffee and sherry by an omniscient narrator.  The book seeks to see what promise lies ahead for these two characters. Jane, late 30’s/early 40’s is the dedicated wife of a Vicar and Prudence hovers around the age of 30.  Both were at Oxford, Jane being Prudence’s tutor.  Seventeenth-century English verse dots the pages of the novel and serve to illuminate and sometimes confound the reader.  Jane is almost content being the wife of a Vicar, if only she could find a suitable husband for her dear friend Prudence.

Midway through the novel we are given an accurate portrayal of just exactly where the field lies for these two characters: “And yet even she seemed to have missed something in life; her research, her studies of obscure seventeenth-century poets, had all come to nothing, and here she was, trying, though not very hard, to be an efficient clergyman’s wife, and with only very moderate success.  Compared with Jane’s life, Prudence’s seemed rich and full of promise.  She had her work, her independence, her life in London and her love for Arthur Grampian.  But tomorrow, if she wanted to, she could give it all up and fall in love with somebody else.  Lines of eligible and delightful men seemed to stretch before her, and with this pleasant prospect in mind she fell into a light sleep.”

One thing to note is Ms. Pym’s familiarity with the Church of England. Of the things that puzzled me were the High Altar, Evensong, Low Church/High Church, Michaelmas, the Curate and thurifer. What on earth are these things?  As a guy who went to Christian grade schools  and a Catholic High School, in the U.S. of course, I am completely foreign to these terms.

Towards the end of the novel, after the somewhat disastrous Fabian Driver affair, Prudence contemplates religion and comes up with the conclusion that she “…could have this kind of life if she wanted it; one couldn’t go on having romantic love affairs indefinitely.  One had to settle down sooner or later into the comfortable spinster or the contented or bored wife.”  On the last page of the novel Prudence is “…suddenly overwhelmed by the richness of her life.” A suitable way to end a sensible book.

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