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“A Dance” Is Finding Its Rhythm

dance4

Maybe A Dance To The Music Of Time has finally worn me down. It’s beaten me up, bruised me, tossed me around like a Cabbage Patch Kid without a leg. Because, somehow, I’m willing to say the fourth book in the series, At Lady Molly’s, wasn’t that bad.

It’s not that anything changed with Anthony Powell’s style. It’s not that, all of the sudden, the plot took off and became action-packed and filled with suspense.

I still would say A Dance To The Music Of Time might be compared to the most boring reality show ever, a show in which the main characters sit around and talk about history and go to social parties to discuss the merits of Communism over a glassy of sherry.

All of that is still the same. I think the characters are just finally starting to grow on me. After nearly 1,000 pages of reading, I would hope a few of these characters would begin to seem interesting. And they have.

But I’m also starting to “get” the book a little more. In sum, A Dance is a book about how people weave in and out of our lives.

It starts with elementary and high school. Maybe you have a few friends you still keep up with, but most of us haven’t talked to 99% of our high school friends in years. We might move from town to town, change jobs, and with each of those changes we give up one set of acquaintances and friends for another new set.

When we run into those old friends again, maybe we’re surprised at how life has treated them. In the example below, I love Powell’s description of two people who turned out totally different than their teenage status would’ve implied. It would be like the high school cheerleader who turns into the loser druggie and the nerdy, loner girl who becomes a major success.

Life jogs along, apparently in the same old way, and then suddenly your attention is drawn to some terrific change that has taken place. For example, I found myself brought up short at that moment, like a horse reined in on the brink of a precipice, at the thought of the astonishing reversal of circumstances by which Eleanor Walpole Wilson was now in a position to feel sorry for Barbara Goring–or, as she had by then been for some years, Barbara Pardoe. The relationship between these two first cousins, like all other relationships when one is young, had seemed at that time utterly immutable; Barbara, pretty, lively, noisy, popular: Eleanor, plain, awkward, cantankerous, solitary. Barbara’s patronage of Eleanor was something that could never change. ‘Eleanor is not a bad old thing when you get to know her,’ she used to say; certainly without the faintest suspicion that within a few years Eleanor might be in a position to say: ‘Poor Barbara, she does have a time of it.’

So “The Year of The Dance” continues on. I’ve now completed one-third of the twelve volume, 3,000+ page novel. In May, I’ll be tackling the fifth book in the series, Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant. Hopefully, my growing enjoyment of this series will continue.

For those of you who I scared off with my thoughts on the first few books, do you think you might be willing to tackle this behemoth of a book at some point?

Check out my previous posts about A Dance To The Music Of Time.

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18 Comments Post a comment
  1. Any “book” requiring 1,000 pages to get the motor started was not meant for a modern, impatient world. I’m afraid you’re dancing solo here.

    April 30, 2012
    • I would generally agree, but I guess that’s what I signed up for.

      April 30, 2012
    • Howard #

      Greg Streech is not afraid to back down from a challenge.

      April 30, 2012
    • I totally agree. Reading for me is already a constant battle with ADD, so I don’t need something that has bigger guns and more words to work against me with. :) Instead, I will settle for your synopses of what you have read.

      April 30, 2012
  2. I will definitely read this at some point–the challenge of it appeals to me.

    April 30, 2012
    • Just settle in and be patient with it. It’s extremely slow moving.

      April 30, 2012
  3. I hope others read it. There is a rhythm to the boks that I found appealing. The atmosphere of the parlors, clubs and pubs was so different from life today. Not a lot of plot until the later books, not too many sentence bombs – just the rhythm of life at that time. A bit like the art-house movie.

    April 30, 2012
    • Good thoughts. I’m glad you’ve read it so I can get your insight. Can’t wait for the “plot” to finally reveal itself!

      April 30, 2012
  4. Your descriptions intrigue me. It will be a while, but you’ve attracted my attention enough to make me wonder. Something about large tomes that attracts me anyway. One can really dig into such a large novel, and often by the time one comes to the last pages, one is sorry to have it end.

    April 30, 2012
  5. I tried but my month with it was up and someone at the library had actually requested it and so I thought, “You want it? It’s yours!” and returned it happily feeling I’d been let off the hook. I might try again because the IDEA appeals to me but man that thing was tough.

    April 30, 2012
  6. Carly #

    It’s on my list too, so I’ll get to it eventually. But after just finishing Proust’s 4000+ page beast, I need to change the pace for a bit. Your commentary has been interesting – by the time you reach the end, you’ll feel like you’ve won a battle.

    April 30, 2012
  7. Are we supposed to join you in your 101 book reading challenge? I missed the first 35 that you read. I missed the ribbon cutting ceremony with the speeches and goal setters. I’m almost done with my creative writing thesis for school and then other than writing my favorite thing to do is read. Honestly, the passage you quoted sounds familiar not because I read the book, but I believe I read books during that period in that specific lollygagging I write because I can genre. I loved Anna Karenina, but I hated War and Peace (That’s on your list,?). I’m a commitment phobe simply because there are things in life I can choose; there are things in life that chose me. Anyway, hats off, applause, my god get you thru this, whatever moves you keep trucking along, or trudging along, or revive yourself with fluids.

    April 30, 2012
    • Sure…join in! Go read my first post (“The Beginning”) and you’ll see how it all started.

      Thanks for reading, Jessica!
      http://101books.net/2010/08/30/the-beginning/

      May 1, 2012
  8. Howard #

    Your patience with the pacing of Dance bodes well for a reading of Pilgrimage by Dorothy Richardson. This fascinating thirteen-book saga follows the heroine Miriam not through event but consciousness, the evolution of the new woman from before WWI to the midcentury.

    April 30, 2012
  9. melissamwolff #

    I’ve nominated you for the versatile blogger award! Congratulations! http://versatilebloggeraward.wordpress.com/vba-rules/

    May 1, 2012
  10. Geoffrey #

    i’ve just finish the third volumn of Dance (Autumn – books 7-9) and i’m really enjoying it. I too decided around Christmas to read one book a month but i’m ahead of myself i’m liking it so much. Powell is a serious writer of thoughts and feelings with great sentence construction and a style of prose that, to me, skips off the page (in a very ‘english’ style). The action is not fast by any means but this is what I like: he goes into depth in the plot. I can’t wait to find how the series finishes in the final three novels.

    May 15, 2012

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Do You Hate Yourself? Read This Novel. | 101 Books
  2. Book #51: A Dance To The Music Of Time | 101 Books

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