The Barbara Pym Society of North America & Why Men Are Laundry Addicts

Barbara Pym at the International African Institute

Barbara Pym at the International African Institute

I recently joined the Barbara Pym Society, thinking I might attend the conference in Boston in the spring.  Though it does involve singing hymns, which I am not keen on, not being musical, as all know who have heard my stirring rendition of “All the Way to Reno,” I would enjoy meeting other Pymites and hearing papers on A Quartet in Autumn.

The real reason to join literary societies, however, is to collect the newsletters.  The house used to be awash in publications from the Trollope Society (a bit of a snooze), the Willa Cather Foundation (fascinating), and The Angela Thirkell Society (quirky).  Today I received two editions of Green Leaves, The Journal of the Barbara Pym Society.  It is a perfect blend of scholarship and entertainment, including well-written articles with such titles as “The Spinster’s Natural Clothing:  Postwar Styles in Excellent Women,” “Barbara Pym Society Knitting Competition:  Keith’s Sweater,” “Homosexuality in A Glass of Blessings,” and “Austen, Love, and Pain in the Novels of Barbara Pym.”

Pym is one of the best writers of the twentieth century, but not everyone understands her. (I am not talking about you.)  I have met a few men who scorn her.  On the other hand, one male friend of mine reads almost nothing but Pym.  When I tried to introduce him to Penelope Lively’s books, he said, “There is no comparison.”

And yet Pym seems to be stuck in the middlebrow women writers category, along with wonderful writers like Elizabeth Bowen and Elizabeth Taylor.  Pym is the best of these three:  she never wrote a bad sentence.  Bowen is superb but can be a bit stagey, and though Taylor’s books are enjoyable, I honestly never remember anything about them once read (with the exception of a few of her short stories).

But Pym can be read and reread.  Her wit, elegance, and liveliness never fail me.


One night I found five shrunken cotton sweaters in my laundry basket.  My husband had thrown them into the washer with regular detergent, and then into the dryer.

What an incentive to lose weight, right?

What do you do when a man gets ahold of your laundry?

My husband loves to do laundry.  It gives him a feeling of accomplishment.  Sometimes he does not use enough detergent, so I  sneak it back downstairs and do it again.

“You can wash those sweaters with Woolite, but you know how you always see sweaters drying on towels around here?  That’s because you can’t put sweaters in the dryer.”

I have had to replace a few of the sweaters.  I have many pilled sweaters to wear around the house, but I need a winter wardrobe reserved for out of the house, preferably something the cats haven’t clawed.

The mall has nothing warm in my size.  I’ve complained before about how difficult it is to find large clothing.

Catalogues have more choices, but there is much sending back and forth to find the perfect fit.

The same sweater in the exact same style as those lost costs $10 more than it did in 2010.  And so I decided to go for something a little nicer and slightly more expensive.

Diet, you say.  It is the perfect solution.  I do, I do.  Lose 15 pounds or 50 pounds, it all comes back.  That is the dieter’s secret.  And so I gain and lose the same weight every year.  I have clothing in five sizes and a size 8 coat I wore for three months in 2001.

Oh, well, it is time to go on a diet again.  Fifteen pounds off before the holidays.  But will I be able to fit into the shrunken sweaters?  Let’s go for 25…