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Reading Groups

Reading Barbara Pym with Han Ong

Four Sessions Saturdays, 12:30 pm EDT - 2:00 pm EDT March 23 to April 20, 2024

The Center for Fiction

The ‘With Books’ option includes both titles required for this group at an additional 10% discount from our Bookstore.

Meeting Dates:
3/23, 3/30, 4/13, 4/20
In Person at The Center

The English novelist Barbara Pym is beloved for her books about spinsters and vicars and anthropologists, all of whom she guides with a gentle hand and delineates with a sharp eye. Her novel Excellent Women is widely read and much written about, but her other books are perhaps less well-known. We’ll spend the next few months familiarizing ourselves with this writers’ writer who is perpetually on the verge of “breaking out” into wider recognition. We will start with Excellent Women, as good an introduction to Pym-world as any, with its sharp but humane humor and its deft handling of its characters’ fates. Then we’ll read Quartet in Autumn, a remarkable Pym novel that stands outside her body of work in tone and mood, elegiac and tragic where other works are renowned for their light comic touch. Two classes will be devoted to each book—more in the nature of a deeper dive than a beginner’s intro.

In preparation for the first class, please read Excellent Women Chapters 1 – 14 (pp. 1 -118)

What to expect from this reading group: This course hopes to strike a balance between instructor questions and reading guidelines, and participant discussion and conversation. Enthusiastic readers are encouraged.


Led by

  • Han Ong

    Han Ong

    Han Ong

    Han Ong’s stories can be found in the New Yorker, Zoetrope: All-Story, and Conjunctions, among other publications. He is a MacArthur Fellow.