Monday, October 15, 2007

No Title Yet, No Escape

[Barbara Pym to Philip Larkin]
40 Brooksvill Avenue
11 December 1961
Dear Mr. Larkin,

The novel is getting on--no title yet, of course, and none of the splendid collection I have seems to fit it. Now I have to force myself to type some of the earlier chapters because that's the only way I can tell what it's going to be like--whether it is worth going on, and all those other depressing thoughts that come. But I can see now that it will get finished if I am spared. No--nobody has ever written about the 'art' of my books--sometimes they have been well reviewed--other times not at all. Excellent Women was best received--A Glass of Blessings worst!

I can't imagine you writing anything 'knowing and smart' (not even Jazz) so it must be only your own harsh self criticism--of course being so young when you wrote it, it would certainly be different from what you'd write now. Perhaps it is better not to publish anything before one's thirty--I mean novels. I wrote Some Tame Gazelle when I was 22. Then rewrote it about ten years later.

I don't think you are a 500-words-a-day-on-the-Riviera sort of writer--perhaps nobody is now. What would one do for the rest of the day, having spent the morning writing? Lead a worthless life, I suppose, and how pleasant it might be for a bit. Then one would get involved with the English church--there would be no escape.
Yours sincerely
Barbara Pym

-from A Very Private Eye: An Autobiograhy in Diaries and Letters by Barbara Pym / edited by Hazel Holt and Hilary Pym. (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1984) p. 204-05.

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