Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Reading Barbara Pym

A friend gave Charlie and me a stack of Barbara Pym novels and every so often we'll read one. They need to be read rather carefully, because nothing much happens on the surface, but a great deal happens between the lines. When I try to write between the lines, my editors send the manuscript back and ask me to clarify. It takes a deft touch to do it properly.

Pym's books--the ones I've read, anyway--use food and drink to good effect. What someone serves and on what occasion, how one behaves at tea or at table all characterize one's personality, upbringing, status, class and propriety. It's enough to make you pause before inviting anyone over. It's definitely a change from Great-Grandma Goodman, who would put supper on the table and say, "Come and get it, 'fore I slop it to the hogs."



Gayle said...

Marian, I get that, too! In fact, with the edits for The Quick and The Thread, my editor told me she knew there was more going on in my head than I was putting on the paper and to . . . you got it . . . CLARIFY! ;-)

Marian Allen said...

The last story I submitted, "Leaving the Turtle" for WARRIOR WISEWOMAN, I got it back TWICE for clarification! I haven't heard yet if it's been accepted or if they're just tired of messing with me and are holding it for rejection after the deadline passes.

Another story, "Team Player", which was in DYING IN A WINTER WONDERLAND, was so I-thought-it-was-clear-but-no, I wondered if I'd have to rename it "The One Where..." and state the plot.