Barbara Pym and Alice Munro-- opinions and where do I start?

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I am thinking about reading Barbara Pym and Alice Munro over the summer. I keep seeing references to their works and rave reviews from readers. What are your recommendations on where to start with
each writer? What are their best works? thanks in advance.

Steve Walker (Quietman), Saturday, 28 February 2004 04:27 (sixteen years ago) link

For Barabara Pym, I think A Dear Gazelle. I reckon don't read too many book by her in a row or you will start to think she only has one story to tell. For Alice Monro, short stories, especially Lives of Girls and Women. This is just my opinion though

isadora (isadora), Saturday, 28 February 2004 04:38 (sixteen years ago) link

I'd read Barbara Pym in order of publication:
Some Tame Gazelle, Excellent Women, Jane and Prudence, Less Than Angels, A Glass of Blessings, No Fond Return of Love,
Quartet in Autumn, The Sweet Dove Died, A Few Green Leaves, An Unsuitable Attachment. Mind the gap between No Fond Return and Quartet in Autumn (which I think her best book) - she could get nothing published for 16 years, though popular. Publishers considered her out of fashion. Then two books published posthumously: Crampton Hodnet and An Academic Question.

I've never read Alice Munro, but if she compares to Barbara Pym for subtlety and wry portrayals of the human condition, I'll have to start. I'd also recommend Penelope Fitzgerald.

Jaq, Saturday, 28 February 2004 16:15 (sixteen years ago) link

Alice Munro's How I Met My Husband, from Something I've Been Meaning To Tell You: Thirteen Stories

donald, Saturday, 28 February 2004 18:00 (sixteen years ago) link

Some Tame Gazelle - this is probably what I was thinking of. How shaming.

isadora (isadora), Sunday, 29 February 2004 18:43 (sixteen years ago) link

Hey isadora, I'm totally into Barbara Pym too. How great that you are! I never can get Alice Munro. I read one page, I don't like it. But I'll try again to force myself because she's my best friend's favourite writer so it's awful I can't enjoy her. Barbara Pym is my hero! I love every book by her. I just read 'The Sweet Dove Died' and 'Crampton Hodnet'. I own 'Crampton Hodnet'.

I recommend you read Barbara Pym's books in the order she wrote them, too, as the stuff she wrote when she was younger seems a bit wryer than the stuff she wrote when she was older, which is deeper. And it's a good approach to sort of go into things that way.

maryann (maryann), Monday, 1 March 2004 06:33 (sixteen years ago) link

maryann i looked for barbara pym bks in the dn. pub. lib. today & they didn't have any. they also didnt have any mark leyner or any dostoevsky. that library sucks!
i guess they might'v been out, or in the stack room or something tho. but that library still sucks. hey did i already ask you if you 've read "gentlemen prefer blondes" by anita loos? if not you gotta read it! it's killer funny!

unknown or illegal user (doorag), Wednesday, 3 March 2004 12:50 (sixteen years ago) link

No Dostoevsky? What idiots!

All Bunged Up. (Jake Proudlock), Wednesday, 3 March 2004 14:52 (sixteen years ago) link

Don't be surprised. I have heard of small college and some public
libraries that don't contain certain classics.

Steve Walker (Quietman), Thursday, 4 March 2004 04:22 (sixteen years ago) link

Alice Munro is a wonderful storyteller. When I start to read one of her stories, I settle down to absorb all the details she needs to fully tell the tale. There is something careful and well-considered in her writing that I think of as Canadian.

A book that reminded me of Munro's style, also by a Canadian, was A Student of Weather by Elizabeth Hay. I loved the way the details of nature fit into the story.

meegan, Saturday, 6 March 2004 20:12 (sixteen years ago) link

Alice Munro is so good i don't think you can go wrong with any of her collections. She is staggering to me. The forms her stories take are so unpredictable and her storytelling skills are almost unmatched.(almost, cuz there is always someone somewhere who will prove me wrong once i finally read them.)

scott seward (scott seward), Saturday, 6 March 2004 23:46 (sixteen years ago) link

Dunedin library does have Dost they just jail it away and sigh if you ask for it and say 'it'll be at least an HOUR' with the 'hour' a kind of groan that sounds like they just got stabbed in the stomach. So it's alright.

maryann (maryann), Sunday, 7 March 2004 07:49 (sixteen years ago) link

fourteen years pass...

Unbelievably, I'm going to start Excellent Women tomorrow.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 18 June 2018 17:02 (two years ago) link

one year passes...

I just started it. It is KILLING me.

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Monday, 4 May 2020 09:45 (three months ago) link

I just finished Less Than Angels at Aimless' recommendation! What a treat. Laffs on every page. I retract what I've written about her.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 4 May 2020 10:47 (three months ago) link

one month passes...

Perhaps there can be too much making of cups of tea, I thought, as I watched Miss Statham filling the heavy teapot. We had all had our supper, or were supposed to have had it, and were met together to discuss the arrangements for the Christmas bazaar. Did we really need a cup of tea? I even said as much to Miss Statham and she looked at me with a hurt, almost angry look, 'Do we need tea?' she echoed. 'But Miss Lathbury...' She sounded puzzled and distressed and I began to realise that my question had struck at something deep and fundamental. It was the kind of question that starts a landslide in the mind.

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Friday, 26 June 2020 14:35 (one month ago) link

^ftr, Pym, not Munro

the unappreciated charisma of cows (Aimless), Friday, 26 June 2020 18:21 (one month ago) link

I've done a 180 on Pym after reading Less Than Angels and The Sweet Dove Died

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 26 June 2020 19:30 (one month ago) link

Miss Lathbury otm

carin' (map), Friday, 26 June 2020 19:32 (one month ago) link

I've done a 180 on Pym after reading Less Than Angels and The Sweet Dove Died

i read excellent women recently and didn't really feel it (tho i recognised that tea paragraph as a standout moment), maybe I'll try those two.

neith moon (ledge), Friday, 26 June 2020 19:42 (one month ago) link

At the risk of stating the obvious, the recent Backlisted episode on Pym was great: https://www.backlisted.fm/episodes/109-barbara-pym-excellent-women

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Friday, 26 June 2020 19:45 (one month ago) link

i read excellent women recently and didn't really feel it

Same.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 26 June 2020 19:48 (one month ago) link

two weeks pass...

Midway through Less than Angels, can't say I'm feeling it more than Excellent Women. With both of them I feel, aptly enough, like an anthropologist, albeit a bad one who cannot fathom the nature of or reason for the tribe's peculiar customs.

neith moon (ledge), Tuesday, 14 July 2020 07:33 (three weeks ago) link

They just really want to know what the new vicar's up to.

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Tuesday, 14 July 2020 10:49 (three weeks ago) link

With both of them I feel, aptly enough, like an anthropologist, albeit a bad one who cannot fathom the nature of or reason for the tribe's peculiar customs.

i.e. what it's like to be gay in a world of straight people?

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 14 July 2020 12:17 (three weeks ago) link

Yes it's really that isn't it?

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Tuesday, 14 July 2020 12:28 (three weeks ago) link

Hear, hear!

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 14 July 2020 12:39 (three weeks ago) link

But also what it's like to be closeted from everyone else in the world. You can sense this slightly intoxicating bewilderment she holds in Excellent Women for the likes of William, who's absolutely flaming and comfortable with it.

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Tuesday, 14 July 2020 12:42 (three weeks ago) link

I will read the second half of Less than Angels with this perspective in mind.

neith moon (ledge), Tuesday, 14 July 2020 15:13 (three weeks ago) link


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