Features September 1982
Enclosures: Barbara Pym
On the tradition and inspiration of Barbara Pym.
Everybody knows how cozy certain English novels can be. Like those foggy walks on the Downs which envelop the human figure in mildly mythic illumination and a gently courted sense of disaster, they almost always bring one home safe for tea. Often they belong to the genre of the series-novel, in which a continuing environs or reappearing characters can bring us that sense of familial enclosure which is one of the great precincts of the novel, and one we all crave. In effect, that is what any novel is, whether sliced near and parochial or projected abysmally far. Those enclosures which become great of themselves are inhabited by creatures who bear terrifying or encouraging resemblances to ourselves, no matter their station in life or ours. After that, these novels take their tone from how daringly their creator will violate the safety of the enclosure to show us the raw facts outside. Trollope’s cynicism will do that....
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