Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Pym-iest of Pym Posts, as Boswell Has Three Barbara Pym Selctions in our Staff Rec Case.

When I refer to Pyms, I am not referring to that delicious English cookie, which are in fact Pims. No, I am referring to something else English and delicious, and that would be the writer Barbara Pym (I did the drawing at right because I couldn't determine if any of the photos had promotional use available).

I looked at our staff rec shelves, and saw that not one, not two, but three of us have Barbara Pym on our shelves, and if Beverly were still alive, I think we'd make it four. Anne still recalls when she first discovered the author, after reading a newspaper article and walking into the Book Nook on Silver Spring Drive, where Beverly was eager to talk about the author.

I got Pym fever when I still lived in New York. Her comeback started when several British intellectuals (notably David Cecil and Philip Larkin) called Pym the most under-rated writer of the 20th century. And then the old books started being re-released and the new ones started getting published, for all Pymians know that she was rejected by her publisher in the early 1960s, and instead of finding another publisher, she didn't publish for 16 years. And when Quartet in Autumn was published, it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

But I know exactly what did it for me. It was when Anne Tyler, who at the time was probably my favorite writer (I scoured bookstores for her entire backlist in mass market, which was extraordinarily hard to find, as the reprints were scattered about several different publishers, even though the hardcovers always came from Knopf. One was from Playboy Books!) reviewed No Fond Return of Love. Now, through the magic of computers, I know the day I fell in love--February 13, 1983. I was late to the game, but heck, I was also only 22.

I also know my friend Billy was obsessed with Pym, but I can't remember if I discovered this before or after the review. And Jane's off, so I don't know where she discovered Pym, but I'll bet it's also a good story.

I'd walk into the B. Dalton on Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street, in the same building where I worked, and there was a huge display of her books, both in hardcover from Dutton and in paperback from Harper. All the editions matched, and I had never seen such a thing. One wishes that publishers would release backlist in uniform hardcover editions more often, but it's so rare that one publisher has all the rights.

It turns out that Penguin (which had bought Dutton) took the paperback rights back from Harper, and issued their own editions in Plume. But now the only Penguin edition in print is a Penguin classic of Excellent Women, which is her second novel and probably her most well known. Most of the rest of the titles were issued by Moyer Bell, which has always had a bit of trouble keeping the books printed.

Our recs are for her first three published novels, but Jane and Prudence was actually my second choice. My first, A Glass of Blessings, from 1958, is one of those titles that's out of stock. I checked with Midpoint, Moyer Bell's current distributor, who said there are also rights issues involved. Sigh.  But I'll go with second best! Here are our recs

Some Tame Gazelle (1950)
"If you like Jane Austen, you will love the books by Barbara Pym, set in 1950s England. She's a wonderful observer of her world, and the British humor is wonderful."

Exellent Women (1952)
"Witty plotting--eccentric yet subtly strong personalities set against mid 20th centur London. Escape bleakness of winter with this engaging compedy of manners. Pour a cuppa...and enjoy!"

Jane and Prudence (1953)
"Two friends gossiping about village life, in search of a mate for Prudence. Dreamy, Austen-esque without trying, I sigh just thinking about beloved Pym."

Needless to say, the art of writing recs on cards does not always translate to recs on blogs, where you have more room to spread out.

Here's a link to another post about Pym. It includes the Barbara Pym Cookbook, which I must say passed me by.

Later that day...

I was checking my email and got this note from Laura at Open Road Media. Who knew my blog post was timed so well?

"I work at Open Road Media, a small NYC-based publishing company. I read your post today about Barbara Pym, and I'm delighted to connect with you.

"It's a great coincidence that you happened to write about Pym today: this week marked the release of our U.S. ebook editions of her works, with paperback editions to follow on March 5. Our editions include A Glass of Blessings, Jane and Prudence, Less Than Angels, No Fond Return of Love, and Some Tame Gazelle—as well as The Barbara Pym Cookbook. I'm particularly pleased to tell you that A Glass of Blessings is on our list, as I know that was your top recommendation for new-to-Pym readers.

"Anyhow, I just wanted to connect and let you know about the forthcoming availability. We'll be distributing through Ingram when the time comes. Let me know if you have any questions, and thanks for the great post. I really enjoyed it!"

Warm regards,


Laura noted we sell via Google ebooks. I guess it's time to start noting that we are switching to the Kobo program on February 1. There'll be more blogging about that, as soon as I can wrap my head around it.

The print component will probably be print on demand. Hope they made the margin and returnability good enough that bookstores like ours can carry the titles for stock.

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