Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Reading Assignment

The very funny Belgian Waffle asked her readers to describe a fantasy career and I commented that I'd like to have a job making book recommendations. She shot a comment right back saying "Patience Crabstick, literary concierge." I like the sound of that, and with the dual purpose of bringing a focus to my blog as well as doing what I love, I'm instituting the Friday Reading Assignment. Don't panic, there will be no quiz on Monday although if anyone actually does read one of these books, I would love it if you'd leave a comment and tell me what you thought. Naturally, "reading assignment" is used facetiously here. I am not seriously ordering anyone to read something you don't want to. On the other hand, if you're looking for something to read, my Friday posts might be a good resource. There aren't really any rules about the books I'll put up. What you won't see are the books that everybody else is reading. It's not going to be very enlightening if I list books that you can easily find for yourself on the best sellers lists. Besides, I like to give a boost to obscure books that are in danger of being removed from library shelves because they're never checked out.

This first post is difficult, since last week I already discussed what I've been reading. I'm still plugging away at The Four Gated City, by the way. For this Friday, I've decided to feature the first published novel of one of my favorite authors: Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym. Barbara Pym is a British writer who died in 1980. Her books are mostly set in the the 1930's, 40's and '50s and are often (but not always) about quiet spinsters who lead rather dull lives. Small events--the vicar coming to tea--are hugely significant. What's great about Pym's novels is her focus on the tiny details and absurdities of life. I also like them because they are about outwardly dull people who lead fascinating inner lives. In Some Tame Gazelle, two unmarried, middle-aged sisters, Belinda and Harriet Bede, live together in a quiet country village. Harriet is a sort of hilarious church lady/cougar, but the novel centers on Belinda, who has had an unrequited love for the archdeacon for thirty years. The archdeacon, Henry Hoclceave, a man one might describe as "difficult" is married to a rather grand and formidable lady and it is Belinda's fate to toil as a church volunteer, while managing the little social dramas of village life--how not to offend the dressmaker, for example.

That's the plot in a nutshell. There's a handsome young curate for Harriet to flirt with, and a collection of touchy spinster ladies. Pym has been compared to Jane Austen because of her sharp and witty observations about human nature.

Barbara Pym

The bare facts.

This book is: funny, comfort literature.
Time it will take to read: Less than a week.


  1. Oh, I love this. Thank you for the recommendation. I easily and happily slip into books and BBC series that are slow-moving and spinster-centered.

  2. I've seen her around--not HER, but her books. And now that I know they're about the quiet spinster of small town life? I MUST find a book by her!

  3. I am excited about these posts! Pym sounds right up my alley.

  4. I've never read anything by her yet, but this sounds like something I'd really enjoy. Thanks for the recommendation!

  5. Long, long ago in a land where there were many independent bookstores, the job of book recommender/literary concierge did in fact exist. Now they are rare exotic creatures, sought out by those who remember. I think those who still read will welcome your virtual version.