A Dance to the Music of Time

A local weblogger has started to wave the white flag over his commitment to read Anthony Powell’s excellent (and very long) novel, A Dance to the Music of Time. I suggested several days ago that this was probably the longest work I have ever read, longer even than Á la recherché de temps perdu. I’d like to offer some encouragement for anyone now reading or contemplating reading Dance, and a few suggestions for augmenting the experience.

First, the statistics:  here from Robert L Selig; Time and Anthony Powell, A Critical Study

This twelve-volume sequence [A Dance to the Music of Time] traces a colorful group of English acquaintances across a span of many years from 1914 to 1971. The slowly developing narrative centers around life’s poignant encounters between friends and lovers who later drift apart and yet keep reencountering each other over numerous unfolding decades as they move through the vicissitudes of marriage, work, aging, and ultimately death. Until the last three volumes, the next standard excitements of old-fashioned plots (What will happen next? Will x marry y? Will y murder z?) seem far less important than time’s slow reshuffling of friends, acquaintances, and lovers in intricate human arabesques.”

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