I was delighted to receive Harrison Solow's book
FELICITY & BARBARA PYM (Cinnamon Press, 2010)
as a prize/gift for my Red Room blog entry "An Unknown Writer."
Is it a novel? Is it a literature class? Is it a thinly veiled e-memoir?
As the author writes, "This work is both fiction and non-fiction.
It will be up to the reader, if it matters, to determine which is which."
Sorting out these threads of fact & fiction, of author & narrator, and
appreciating the originality of the form are added joys of the book.
The book is on its surface an ongoing session of e-tutoring of young
student Felicity by an older and far more experienced and learned
character, Mallory, whose rich and remarkable life does indeed
seem to resemble that of the author herself.
Peter Miles, in his Introduction, writes of the book, "It will infuriate
as well as stimulate..." And it certainly does, simultaneously, because
Mallory's forceful and heady opinions will awaken the forceful and
heady opinions of the reader. In fact, if the reader doesn't have forceful
and heady opinions with which to confront those of the narrator, he or
she is going to be floundering in the strong currents of Mallory's
(Harrison's) mind. But that's good, too. Mallory is asking Felicity to
awaken, not only to literature, to Barbara Pym's novels, but to herself,
her own mind, what she loves about literature, and why.
The book is a journey through the books of Barbara Pym, with unpredictable
detours and delights, but it's also an inspiration/invitation to the reader to deepen
his or her love of literature & reading, which I for one needed. I write much
more than I read these days, and, since reading Harrison's book a couple
weeks ago (although I have not yet explored Barbara Pym's works, and I
half-expect a rebuke from Mallory for that), I have read more books than
in the previous six months: Osamu Dazai's No Longer Human, Gogol's The
Overcoat, R.K. Narayan's The Financial Expert, and a re-reading
of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer. So, along with the fun, challenge, and
education Harrison's book has given me, it's also gotten me reading like
a fiend again, and that's good.
I thank both Harrison Solow and Huntington Sharp for this delightful,
vigorous & enlightening book.