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Do You Hate Yourself? Read This Novel.


If A Dance To The Music Of Time was a dinner, it would be a plain hamburger with no cheese, no ketchup, no mustard–nothing–with a couple of cardboardish rice cakes  meant to substitute for delicious, crispy, salty french fries.

All of this would sit on a plain, white plate with a white napkin and white plastic utensils. Next to the plate, a lukewarm glass of water would sit. No lemon. No ice. No straw.

When you finished that meal, you would say, “I just ate the most boring meal in the history of meals.” That’s what you would say. And you would be right. But what if that meal was a series of books?

Why would you eat a series of books? You wouldn’t. But you might read a series of books, and these books might bore you, not unlike that awful hamburger and rice cake combination.

All of that is a horrible lead-in to say I’m approaching the halfway point in the “Year of The Dance”–which is my year-long read through the 3,000+ page behemoth known as A Dance To The Music Of Time by Anthony Powell–one of the novels on the Time list.

The novel is broken into 12 volumes, which made for a nice opportunity to read one volume a month, in addition to my normal reading. So that’s what I’ve been doing.

If you’ve read any of my takes on the first four novels, you know I’ve been mostly underwhelmed. Book 4, At Lady Molly’s, was an improvement over the first three. But, even so, I’m not a fan of this novel to this point. Did the title of the post give it away?

Honestly, book 5–Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant–continues that trend. Powell introduces a few new characters into the novel–a group of music composers befriended by the narrator, Jenkins–who, more and more, seems to be the “everyman” compared to all the people he’s surrounded by.

In this book, Powell also does a little shifting in the time sequence of the novel, as book 5 starts several years before book 4 ended. Again, there’s not a ton of interesting stuff here. Although there is a divorce and a suicide, Powell somehow manages to make these events less dramatic than they could be. His storytelling style is one of skipping over the major events and focusing on the minor ones. Some people might appreciate that, but I find it dry.

As I keep saying, A Dance To The Music Of Time seems like a boring, reality TV show, had reality TV existed in the pre-World War 2 London.

I know I’m not providing much of substance with the posts about this book. But, honestly, I’m at a loss for words. I hope that, by the end of the year when I get through all 12 volumes, I’ll have something profound to say.

I think it says something about this novel that I’ve read more than 1,000 pages of it, and I don’t have much to say. Or maybe it says something about me. Either way, not much has been said. I know that.

So, to sum up this post: I don’t have much to say about a book that doesn’t say much. I hope Dance gets more interesting, but I fear that it won’t.

To read more of my remedial insight about Dance, feel free to peruse my previous posts.

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18 Comments Post a comment
  1. Wow! Order up! No thanks, to the burger and lukewarm water. Ha! Thanks for the fun read.

    May 31, 2012
  2. Teresa #

    Ok I’ll take you on :)

    And yet you liked I, Claudius, which was one poisoning after another poisoning after another poisoning. Dance is a quiet composition. Can’t say that it can compete with today’s pace of life. And though I did like many of the books. 5 & 6 were boring. And it is horribly long.

    May 31, 2012
    • Oh, but poisonings are so fun!

      May 31, 2012
  3. Why do you think it is so critically acclaimed?

    May 31, 2012
    • The million dollar question. It’s long. It is well-written. And Powell weaves characters in and out of the plot gracefully. He’s basically telling the story of one guy’s entire life throughout the novel. So that’s unique. As is usually the case, it’s probably just a matter of taste. And I guess my literary palette isn’t refined enough to appreciate it.

      May 31, 2012
  4. I have read books in the past which have received a positive critical response, but which I found rather tough material. It seems to me in many cases that these books often are very revealing about their times and environment. However, unless one is familiar with those times and that environment, one misses many of the nuances of the writers intentions. A Dance to the Music of Time was never on my list of books to read, so I’m not familiar with the story, but if its save to extrapolate from other novels, could this be the case with Dance? Perhaps a greater understanding of the novel’s time period would make all the difference.

    May 31, 2012
  5. I’m wondering if this series is the kind of work that “literary” types love because the “real” story isn’t what’s on the surface but buried in the subtext and symbolism. Trying to ferret that stuff out is way too much work for me, particularly when I’m reading for pleasure. I admire your willingness to “suffer for your art”–or at least, our enlightenment. May this “year of practicing bleeding” seem to end quickly for you. :)

    May 31, 2012
    • Suffer indeed. It’s not bad. It’s just boring.

      May 31, 2012
  6. It does sound like classic “Protestant” Literature … by which I mean, anything that’s good for you can’t be fun. Literature with a deliberate capital L. I prefer my books a little more Catholic. Catholics know how to have a good time, and if they go too far on occasion, they also know who to ask for forgiveness.

    May 31, 2012
  7. I wonder–what structure are the plot arcs of these novels? Do they have any? By the end, have the characters overcome obstacles to their gain, or in pursual of their goals brought themselves to ruin? If neither, I wonder if the problem is one of lack of rising motion in the stories.

    May 31, 2012
  8. What kind of hamburger? I’m guessing more like Kroger’s 90/10 than some grass fed Kobe.

    May 31, 2012
    • Maybe a frozen Bubba burger.

      May 31, 2012
  9. Is it simply a lack of chemistry? Like when you meet a person or take a job that doesn’t fit your personality? But you conference with this person every day, or commit to the job for a year so it feels that much more painful? Well, trudge on Robert. It’s all that is left to do.

    May 31, 2012
    • Yeah, that’s a good way to put it. Obviously, many people love this novel, including prominent book critics. Like I said, I guess it just doesn’t suit my “palette.”

      May 31, 2012
  10. I DO hate myself, thank you for asking. But I’m unwilling to commit to a 12-volume boredom-o-rama as punishment. Instead, I will opt to hate myself for not even trying in case I might like it. Bad, bad, lazy self.

    But I love that you are willing to subject yourself on our behalf!

    May 31, 2012
  11. Yeah I’m pretty sure I’m not re-checking that thing out of the library ever again. I’m having way too much fun with the stuff NOT on the Time’s list. Right now it’s a freaking behemoth by Stephen King 11/22/63. Before that I devoured some Sandman comics. Fun stuff! Totally gross those Sandman ones but really fun.

    June 1, 2012

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Book #51: A Dance To The Music Of Time | 101 Books
  2. 8 Generic Blog Post Ideas That (Usually) Work | 101 Books

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