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My 5 Responses To A Dance To The Music Of Time


I just finished book 9 of 12 (The Military Philosophers) in this behemoth series of novels that Anthony Powell created as a way to torture readers. Feel free to relive my torture by reading my prior posts about the book during 2012–a year I proclaimed as “The Year of the Dance.”

12 books. 12 months. It all made so much sense in January. Now, I just feel like I should get some kind of award from Time Magazine for reading through this beast. Has anyone else done it? Who actually reads this thing?

To summarize my emotions about A Dance, I put together the five different responses I have while trying to navigate my way through this novel.

  1. Boredom. A tidal wave of boredom sweeps my soul whenever I read it.
  2. Nostalgia. This novel makes me long for the days of reading Mrs. Dalloway.
  3. Curiosity. I get the point of A Dance. It’s that life is like a dance, in constant motion, with people coming in and out of our lives like dance partners. Some brief. Some longer. But here’s the question–why 3,000+ pages to say that, Anthony Powell?
  4. Anger. Hey, Time Magazine, thanks for helping me waste many days of my life in 2012 while trying to read through this entire doorstop of a novel.
  5. Determination. I will beat you, A Dance To The Music Of Time. I will beat the crap out of you, and you will like it. I only have one more “movement” to go. Three books. 700ish pages. I can do this.

It should be noted that boredom is my primary response, as it seems to be a squatter who has taken residence in my soul for about 80% of the time I am reading this novel. I would say determination comes in second…why else would I still be reading this thing?

The Military Philosophers was, perhaps, my least favorite of the first nine books in this series. That’s saying something. It’s like being the worst singer in a tone deaf choir.

In book 9, main characters die off without nothing more than a sentence or two given to them. Nick Jenkins, the narrator, is as flat as ever. Meh, Anthony Powell. Meh.

Nonetheless, I move on. The next book in the series is book 10, Books Do Furnish A Room. Sounds riveting.

Now, have I convinced you just how awesome this book is?

Until next month…

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20 Comments Post a comment
  1. Teresa #

    Finally a book to knock Mrs. D. out of last place!!

    It’s funny which books get us. I was okay with most of Dance – but have reacted with venom to several others on the list — Gone With the Wind and The Golden Notebook nearly took me down.

    Just 3 more to go, Robert. You get a prize for hanging in there.

    September 27, 2012
    • I’m thinking it just might unseat Mrs. Dalloway! The Golden Notebook is in the next batch, so your thoughts on that one have me a little leery…

      September 27, 2012
      • Teresa #

        I’m guessing that it won’t be a favorite for you. Can I offer advice? Given that the characters are middle-upper class English from mid 1900s and that this 600 page book is a slow read, I’d put off reading it for a while — until Dance is a fond memory. You don’t want to read these two books at the same time.

        September 27, 2012
        • Good advice. I’ll see how it plays out. If I save it for last in this next batch of 5, it will probably be early next year before I start it, after Dance is done.

          September 27, 2012
  2. Having read Dance with great pleasure not once but twice, I agree with Time Magazine and many other ranking lists that it is truly one of the great works of fiction in the Twentieth Century. It doesn’t help to express personal discomfort with each novel, book after book. I do understand that the MTV generation is not patient with books that don’t throw in a quidditch match every few chapters, but one hopes the ability to read critically and not just be entertained is not lost on the world.

    September 27, 2012
    • Oh, Mike. Sorry I’ve offended you. By now, you should know that this blog isn’t about regurgitating what the “literary elite” have already said. I prefer thinking for myself. It’s called honesty.

      And speaking of honesty, I think a quidditch with Nick, Widmerpool and the boys would make this novel infinitely more interesting.

      September 27, 2012
      • My point exactly. The tendency today is to read for pleasure and entertainment. Nothing wrong with that, but it leads to personal responses to literature that may be based on nothing more than some bad guacamole (with sorrowful regards to the late Gore Vidal).

        September 27, 2012
  3. I strangely want to read this.

    September 27, 2012
    • Enter at own risk. It’s written superbly. It’s just dry. Really, really dry.

      September 27, 2012
  4. Note to self: Take Dance to the Music of Time off of intended reading list.

    “Worst singer in a tone-deaf choir.” Now that’s a description.

    September 27, 2012
    • I think that’s a good call. You could always read the first one and just see what you think. Maybe even read a portion of it Google Books or something like that so you don’t have to buy the first three books without knowing if you’d like it.

      September 27, 2012
  5. Hey Mike, how do you feel about the “pleasure and entertainment” I get watching Brother Robert rail against this “book”? Pure comic gold in my view.

    September 27, 2012
  6. Reblogged this on On My Stereo.

    September 27, 2012
  7. lauratfrey #

    I’m glad I’m doing the 1001 books list because this isn’t on out!

    September 27, 2012
    • A Dance to the Music of Time is on the 1001 Books list, originally #675.

      September 27, 2012
      • Nooooooooo

        September 28, 2012
  8. Jrh #

    Four books in and me thinks the blogger doth protest too much. Powell writes in a similar way to Waugh and others, yes stylised and not in a hurry but still rich and entertaining. Might be a transatlantic thing as gatsby and mockingbird though good don’t always play as well in the uk as the seeming untouchability in the us. Dalloway would rightly sit last in my book along with Faulkner and nathaniel west.

    March 31, 2013
  9. I’m really enjoying your blog, Robert. I read ‘A Dance’ as an undergraduate 35 years ago, alternating volumes with CP Snow’s Strangers and Brothers series (would be really intrigued to know if anyone reads that now?). I rather enjoyed it, and I think there may be something in Jrh’s observation about differing perspectives across the Atlantic, though ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ will accompany me in my coffin (probably as a sometime legal type I am irresistibly drawn to the idea of an heroic lawyer!). Gatsby – hmmm – loathed as a teenager, and have just re-read, and reassessed. Will be blogging on it in the next day or two. I can now see something of the glory claimed by its proponents, but still a little unconvinced as to why it occupies the place in the American pantheon that it does.

    My blog ‘Mrs Dalloway is in the Cludgie’*, – should send you into palpitations, though in my year of odyssey through my unread books Mrs D has not yet left the C. Leaving her for 31 December, I think!

    * It’s a homage to Susan Hill’s ‘Howards End is on the Landing’.

    June 15, 2013

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Book #51: A Dance To The Music Of Time | 101 Books
  2. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf | Welcome to Perjink

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