Five Literary Links: A Biography of Barbara Pym, a Pickwickian Novel, Literary Festivals, Common Reader Books, and Diana Gabaldon Fandom

I have been meaning to post a list of literary links, and since I accidentally deleted a whole sheet  tonight, I’d better post what I’ve got.   Enjoy!

Barbara Pym A Passionate force 61GUgbZEFzL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1.   In the Spectator, D. J. Taylor has reviewed Ann Allestree’s new biography, Barbara Pym: a Passionate Force.  Taylor says that the rejection in the 1960s of her novel A Suitable Attachment was devastating to Pym.  (It was published posthumously.)  He writes,

There seems little doubt that this throwing over was the great trauma of Pym’s life, far more upsetting to her than the various relationships that punctuated her half-century of wistful spinsterdom, and a kind of King Charles’s Head to which she infallibly reverted in conversations with dinner guests or letters to literary chums.

I love all of Pym, but An Unsuitable Attachment was not her best novel.  ( I wrote about it at my old blog.)  I am also a fan of Taylor, and blogged here about his excellent new collection of short stories, Wrote for Luck (published by the small press that published the Bailey Women’s Prize winner Elmear McBride’s A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing).

death and mr. pickwick 9780224099660-large2.  Fans of Dickens will be interested to know that Nicholas Dames at The Atlantic recommends Stephen Jarvis’s Death and Mr. Pickwick, a novel that explores the relationship of Dickens and the illustrator Robert Seymour, who committed suicide.  Seymour was collaborating with Dickens on The Pickwick Papers.  (I haven’t read The Pickwick Paper so this book is not for me–yet.)

3.  Susanna Rustin wonders at The Guardian if literary festivals are getting too big.  Some events are  too large and too expensive events.

It can be brilliant simply to see up close the authors whose work you admire or love – appearances from Don DeLillo and Toni Morrison from years ago are still fresh in my mind. Readings by poets, novelists, or comedians and actors who are also writers, can also be dramatic performances, as Charles Dickens’s famously were. I’ve also come away from expensive, ticketed events infuriated by chairs who appeared more interested in their own opinions than in the audience…

4.  Here is a list of books published by the great Common Reader catalogue  before it went out of business in 2006.

5.  Are you an Outlander fan? At She Reads, the novelist Ariel Lawhon writes about her passion for Diana Gabaldon.

outlander gabaldon 1322638297Outlandertpb3wide

7 thoughts on “Five Literary Links: A Biography of Barbara Pym, a Pickwickian Novel, Literary Festivals, Common Reader Books, and Diana Gabaldon Fandom

  1. Hi – I’m Stephen Jarvis, author of Death and Mr Pickwick. Thanks for posting the notice about the novel here, but I just wanted to let you know that it requires no previous knowledge of The Pickwick Papers or any of Dickens’s works. My book is entirely self-contained. And although Dickens is obviously in the novel, he is not the main character. However, if you have read The Pickwick Papers before, you will find that Pickwick will be given extra significance by Death and Mr Pickwick, and vice-versa. Indeed, my American agent said to me that my novel made him want to read The Pickwick Papers again – and he did! Further info about the novel can be found at and there is also a facebook page where I post something every day.


    • Thank you so much for stopping by, Stephen! I love Dickens. The Pickwick Papers is the only one of Dickens’s novels I haven’t read. (II’ve been saving it, apparently as Desmond on the TV shows “Lost” saved Our Mutual Friend.) I have read so many excellent reviews of your novel that I plan to read it this summmer but I will probably read The Pickwick Papers first. It’s great to know that your novel is a standalone. Congratulations on all the good press!


      • Thank you! There are certainly ‘parallels’ and ‘echoes’ of Pickwick that you will appreciate if you do read Pickwick first, but like I say, there is no necessity for doing so. One major difference between the two novels is that mine has a framing story, set in modern times, and towards the end the novel moves completely into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. All the best Stephen


  2. Very interesting blog because it takes us to two very good essay-reviews, Stephen Jarvis’s and D.J. Taylor’s Taylor’s brings us centrally to a number of issues women writers face today too — the kinds of novels they write are still dissed. After reading Jarvis we can ask how far a person’s career motivations should shape how we respond to their novels, and think about the importance of seeing these as well as the actual sociological (and in other cases political) worlds around the novels. Thank you.


    • I’m glad you enjoyed the list! I thought these reviews were very interesting. I have long been a fan of Pym and Jarvis’s novel is getting very good reviews.


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