Recently @chaosbogey tweeted asking if there were any 21st-century descendants of Barbara Pym. I read so little new fiction that I am not one to come up with much of an answer. What do you think? Are there any authors currently being published that make you think of Barbara Pym? Or what 20th-century authors who came after Pym or may have been influenced by Pym?
The question got me to thinking like an Amazon algorithm "If you liked Barbara Pym you should try..." Could we clone Barbara? If you had to describe Pym by naming authors who would you name?
My thoughts run along these lines:
Jane Austen: I think the critics are right. Pym is like a 20th-century Austen. Pym's style, while contemporary to her time, is not unlike Austen's and her observational skills and her attention to detail and nuance are certainly Austenesque.
Anthony Trollope: Pym's witty descriptions of ecclesiastical comings and and goings is more than a little evocative of Trollope's Barchester series.
Iris Murdoch: Pym's work has more humor and her characters are less serious than Murdoch's. Not to mention the fact that Pym's characters, while not necessarily prudish, don't engage in endless rounds of adulterous bed hopping as they seem to in Murdoch's books.
Anita Brookner: The academic interests of many of Pym's female characters makes one think of similar characters in Brookner. Except Brookner's heroines, who were all written after Pym's death, lead far bleaker lives than any Pym character that I have so far come across. And although Brookner is infinitely more serious, her characters share an introspectiveness (introspection?) that is not uncommon in Pym.
What say you?
In a BBC radio broadcast from April 1978 Pym herself discussed some authors who may have had an influence on her writing. At the age of 16 she was convinced she wanted to write a book just like Aldous Huxley's Crome Yellow. After studying at Oxford Pym discovered Elizabeth von Arnim and recognized that her work might be more a more appropriate model for her own efforts than Huxley's. Not long after that she encountered Ivy Compton-Burnett's fiction and for a time took to writing letters to a friend in ICB's distinctive dialogue heavy manner. She also gives a nod to Austen and Trollope and notes that many compare her work to theirs. But she is a little sheepish about agreeing.
But what novelist of today would dare to claim that she was influenced by such masters of our craft? Certainly all who read and love Jane Austen may try to write with the same economy of language, even try to look at their characters with her kind of detachment, but that is as far as any "influence" could go.