As I mentioned a week or two ago, I’ve been rereading Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time in preparation for writing a review of Michael Barber’s Anthony Powell: A Life, out in September from Duckworth Overlook. At lunch with Maud the other day, I was trying to describe Powell’s technique of alternating Hemingway-like naturalistic dialogue with discursive commentary by Nick Jenkins, the narrator of Dance and Powell’s fictional alter ego. I’ve been posting quotations from Dance as almanac entries of late, but I’ve dogeared so many pages since I started rereading it that I thought it might be fun to go ahead and empty the whole bag.
Forgive me if some of these quotes have already been posted. As an old Powellian, my experience has been that they profit from repetition!
– “Later in life, I learnt that many things one may require have to be weighed against one’s dignity, which can be an insuperable barrier against advancement in almost any direction.” (A Question of Upbringing)
– “I felt unsettled and dissatisfied, though not in the least drunk. On the contrary, my brain seemed to be working all at once with quite unusual clarity. Indeed, I found myself almost deciding to sit down, as soon as I reached my room, and attempt to compose a series of essays on human life and character in the manner of, say, Montaigne, so icily etched in my mind at that moment appeared the actions and nature of those with whom that night I had been spending my time. However, second thoughts convinced me that any such efforts at composition would be inadvisable at such an hour. The first thing to do on reaching home would be to try and achieve some sleep. In the morning, literary matters might be reconsidered.” (A Buyer’s Market)
– “These hinterlands are frequently, even compulsively, crossed at one time or another by almost all who practise the arts, usually in the need to earn a living; but the arts themselves, so it appeared to me as I considered the matter, by their ultimately sensual essence, are, in the long run, inimical to those who pursue power for its own sake. Conversely, the artist who traffics in power does so, if not necessarily disastrously, at least at considerable risk.” (A Buyer’s Market)
– “Prejudice was to be avoided if–as I had idly pictured him–Members were to form the basis of a character in a novel. Alternatively, prejudice might prove the very elemtn through which to capture and pin down unequivocally the otherwise elusive nature of what was of interest, discarding by its selective power the empty, unprofitable shell making up that side of Members untranslatable into terms of art; concentrating his final essence, his position, as it were, in eternity, into the medium of words.” (The Acceptance World)
– “I reflected, not for the first time, how mistaken it is to suppose there exists some