Civil to Strangers and Other Writings

Barbara Pym, Author Dutton Books $18.95 (388p) ISBN 978-0-525-24593-3
Even the most loyal Pym reader may approach this collection of still more unpublished writings with trepidation. But fans will find much to enjoy in this book, which includes one complete novel, segments of three unfinished works and four short stories. The main interest, however, is of a valedictory and biographical nature: we are reminded that Pym's less skilled early writings foreshadowed a fine career (of everything here only two stories are from the postwar period). There is a certain sadness in reading in book form the last by so intelligent and subtle a writer, whose work, especially on the immature evidence here, deepened in emotional intensity through the years; the final story in the book, Across a Crowded Room, published in the New Yorker in 1979, is both the briefest and most luminous of the writing here. Completists can take note, as editor Holt does, of all the references to works in progress in Pym's diaries, and be satisfied with the fuller picture of the writer at work that emerges from these slight but always pleasurable pieces. ""Finding a Voice,'' a radio talk Pym gave in 1978, aptly concludes this collection and seems to offer readers warm thanks and a heartfelt goodbye. (January)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
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