Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Buyer's Market: Book Two of A Dance to the Music of Time (by Anthony Powell)

I'm still enjoying this series of novels, and already on to number three!

Usually I like to read through the Amazon reviews after I've finished a book, but this book doesn't even have Amazon reviews. It's like living IN THE DARK AGES.

(They do have a list of "popular highlights," of which my favorite is this one: "For reasons not always at the time explicable, there are specific occasions when events begin suddenly to take on a significance previously unsuspected; so that, before we really know where we are, life seems to have begun in earnest at last, and we ourselves, scarcely aware that any change has taken place, are careering uncontrollably down the slippery avenues of eternity.")

In this novel, the protagonist has a job of some sort in an art book publishing house, but the novel barely touches on his job at all, more about the people who drift in and out of his life. I'm starting to get a feel for him as a slightly unreliable narrator; in the scene where he loses his virginity, he says something like "and there may have been an embrace," either downplaying the sex, or (perhaps) putting a fissure in that layer of trust between the reader and the narrator. It makes the narrative voice that much more interesting. (One of the characters also gets an illegal abortion, which is presented more clearly, and one of them makes some kinky remark about tying up "bad girls," so I don't think it's prudishness in general happening here.)

I was less interested in the characters introduced here (primarily Deacon and Gypsy Jones) than the ones introduced in the previous volume who come back in this one (Jean and Widmerpool), though Barnby has potential. I have to say I love the character names in general here: Widmerpool, Stringham, Mrs. Ardglass, Magnus Donners.

I know this writeup is pretty confused; it's late and I'm sleepy. But I did want to say something before I lose track of what happened in Book Two vs. Book Three, which I'm reading now!

"Barnby used to say that he knew a bill-broker, scarcely aware even how pictures are produced, who could at the same time enter any gallery and pick out the most expensively priced work there 'from Masaccio to Matisse', simply through the mystic power of his own respect for money."

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