The second part of the twelve step dance around time and memory from Anthony Powell picks up the story of his alter ego Nicholas Jenkins a few years after he finishes school and moves to London pro
The second part of the twelve-step dance around time and memory from Anthony Powell picks up the story of his alter-ego, Nicholas Jenkins, a few years after he finishes school and moves to London, probably around 1925. I am grateful to the group read of the Dance for motivating me to keep to the schedule of one book per month, thus keeping things fresh in my mind and offering bonus material in the discussion pages. Being familiar with the style of presentation and with some of the characters helped me enjoy this month's offer a little more than the debut. I can spot now the way each chapter begins with a catalyst for memory and with a short key for interpreting the events, and how each chapter has a sort of moral and lesson learned from experience. Jenkins remains a little bland and amorphous, a perfect witness of the times rather than an active participant, but his growing up is evident by the end of the book, even if it comes at a slow and introspective pace. I have grown quite fond of Nick and of his reserved demeanour, mostly for the way he keeps his curiosity alive and for how he tries to understand people without judging them. Jenkins reminds me strongly of one of my favorite quotes from Sir Terry Pratchett:“The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they've found it.”- Terry Pratchett]If the catalyst of the first volume (the Proustian 'madeleine') was watching some workers dig a road in winter, this time memory is triggered by a set of canvases painted by an old family friend. Jenkins remembers mr. Deacon as an unconventional figure, out of synch with both the classical and the modern styles in painting, trying to find his own artistic path yet being either ridiculed or ignored by the establishemnt. The canvases were none of them familiar, but they recalled especially, with all kind of other things, dinner at the Walpole-Wilsons', reviving with a jerk that phase of early life. They made me think of long-forgotten conflicts and compromises between the imagination and the will, reason and feeling, power and sensuality; together with many more specifically personal sensations, experienced in the past, of pleasure and pain. The opening scene elegantly sets up what appears to be the main dychotomy of the epic : the relationship between the world of power (materialism) and the world of art (spirituality). Jumping to a later point of the present novel, this aspect is spelled out even more clearly when the closing scene brings in focus another painter friend of Jenkins, this time an exponent of the younger generation named Barnby: His life's unusual variety of form provided a link between what I came, in due course, to recognise as the world of Power, as represented, for example, by the ambitions of Widmerpool and Truscott, and the imaginative life in which a painter's time is of necessity largely spent: the imagination, in such cases, being primarily of a visual kind. I referred to the first novel in the series in musical terms, as a symphony of many voices. The second one develops more as a tapestry, weaving together lives and images into a more coherent panoramic view of its period. The narrative is more insightful and more elaborate, as a normal consequence of Jenkins passing from childhood to maturity, expanding his horizons and his areas of interest while maintaining a thematic continuity and a goal of extracting the universal truths from particular incidents. Mr Deacon's reappearance at that season seemed not only to indicate divorce of maturity from childhood, but also to emphasise the dependence of those two states one upon the other. The particular incidents of great significance in this second episode are as follows : - a formal dinner and debutante ball Jenkins attends at the Walpole-Wilsons' London mansion, including an infamous sugar incident- an after party of the high society given by a Mrs. Andriadis in London, on the same night, in the company of mr. Deacon, Gypsy Jones, Stringham, a prince from the Balkans and many others- a visit to the country residence of Sir Magnus Donner, at the castle Stourwater- a dinner at the Widmerpool home, coupled with a birthday party for Mr. Deacon, the painter. I have identified two common factors in all four scenes : the active participation of Widmerpool in all four, and the personal quest of Jenkins to unravel the eternal mystery of feminity (... or to get laid, if I were to use the coarser third millenium verbalisation, an expression that our friend Nick probably would find repulsive, given his coy and oblique mentions of the subject throughout the novel) I must have been about twenty-one or twenty-two at the time, and held then many rather wild ideas on the subject of women: conceptions largely the result of having read a good deal without simultaneous opportunity to modify by personal experience the recorded judgment of others upon that matter: estimates often excellent in their conclusions if correctly interpreted, though requiring practical knowledge to be appreciated at their full value. This shy and elaborate style forms a good part of the charm of Jenkins for me, and I am of the opinion that our modern lives are poorer for the trivialization of our finer sentiments. 'Cringe' comedy is one of the recent fads I would like to bury somewhere deep and out of the beaten track. I mentioned comedy because some of the efforts of Nick Jenkins to woe the young ladies of London are quite funny, in their own stiff-upper-lip way (view spoiler)[ like Nick deciding that he doesn't really love Barbara Goring after he sees her pour a full saucer of sugar on Widmerpool's head; by the end of the novel Nick is so vague and pudic that the reader still wonders if he finally did it or not. He also, even in his moments of bliss, still thinks in terms of art: "Gypsy lay upon the divan, her hands before her, looking perhaps rather self-consciously, a little like Goya's Maja desnuda - or possibly it would be nearer the mark to cite that picture's derivative, Manet's Olympia, which I had, as it happened, heard her mention on some former occasion - she glanced down, with satisfaction, at her own extremities."(hide spoiler)]. In a way, Nick reminds me of my own early twenties, when I had the roving eye and used to imagine how it would be to fall in love with every pretty girl I saw at parties... of being in love with the idea of love: On the way down in the train I had felt that it would be enjoyable to meet some new girl, even at risk of becoming once more victim to the afflictions from which I had only recently emerged. and, Mrs. Wentworth was, outwardly, the more remarkable of the pair, on account of the conspicuous force of her personality: a characteristic accentuated by the simplicity of her dress, short curly hair, and look of infinite slyness. Lady Ardglass was more like a caryatid, or ships figurehead, though for that reason no less superb. As an older man looking back at the folly of his youth, Nick is able to take a less sanguine atitude towards these ladies and towards his romantic feelings: This affair with Barbara, although taking up less than a year, seemed already to have occupied a substantial proportion of my life; because nothing establishes the timelessness of Time like those episodes of early experience seen, on re-examination at a later period, to have been crowded together with such unbelievable closeness in the course of a few years; yet equally giving the illusion of being so infinitely extended during the months when actually taking place. A list of all these love interests of young Jenkins could get quite long, but somewhere along the line I got to thinking about the significance of the title for this second novel in the series, which I suspect is a double entendre, referring both to the lack of suitable young men in the aftermath of the World War II and to the world of Power, where some are called forward based less on their intrinsic abilities and more on the strength of their connections. Widmerpool's presence was 'proof of the insurmountable difficulties experienced by hostesses in their untiring search for young men at almost any price. The last quote brings me around finally to what appears to be the central figure of the dance, at least according to Jenkins who 'accidentally' runs into his old school mate in the most unlikely places. I did not, however, as yet see him as one of those symbolic figures, of whom most people possess at least one example, if not more, round whom the past and the future have a way of assembling. I was confounded in the opening volume by the importance accorded to this oddball personage in the economy of the story, and the bafflement continues in the second book, although Widmerpool's character slowly begins to make sense, like an image gradually coming in focus on photographic paper after being exposed to light. Likewise, the reader understands more about what Widmerpool stands for after each new encounter between him and Jenkins. The final picture is still probably a few volumes away. The same technique is deployed by Powell for all the recurring characters in his saga, with other school friends and acquaintances making a comeback under fresh circumstances : Stringham, Sillery, Templer and his sister, Truscott, Mark Members and Quiggin. Newly introduced characters, like Archie Gilbert - the dandy who lives is invited to all society balls ("he danced his life away through the ball-rooms of London in the unshakable conviction that the whole thing was a sham.) - or the painter Barnby, may play a greater role in later books, yet it is Widmerpool who seems to stay the longest in the limelight for now: True to old form, there was still something indefinably odd about the cut of his white waistcoat; while he retained that curiously piscine cast of countenance, projecting the impression that he swam, rather than walked, though the rooms he haunted. Powell is at his best when he makes his observations of human nature, both explaining and holding back his judgement while he tries to remain truthfull to the perspective and current experience of his narrator Jenkins. The author also enchants with his use of the English language, approaching P G Wodehouse in his search for the most evocative and beautiful turn of phrase. I love diving to the dictionary in order to make sense of 'minatory quiescence' even as I know I will have scant chance to use the expression in everyday conversations. Widmerpool still represented to my mind a kind of embodiment of thankless labour and unsatisfied ambition, [...] forever floundering towards the tape in races never won. and, The illusion that egoists will be pleased, or flattered, by interest taken in their habits persists throughout life; whereas, in fact, persons like Widmerpool, in complete subjection to the ego, are, by nature of that infirmity, prevented from supposing that the minds of others could possibly be occupied by any subject far distant from the egotist's own affairs. Implied here is the fact that such impressions and judgements are liable to evolve over time, to change into something else as Jenkins will grow older. Nick will probably be drifting towards the artistic side of the equation of life, what he calls Bohemianism. He is already working for a small publishing house putting out art albums, and he is writing in his spare time essays and studies 'in the manner of Montaigne' , but I have a feeling the world of Power will also still intrude upon Jenkins and his circle of friends. Whatever the imperfections of the situation from which I had just emerged, matters could be considered with justice only in relation to a much larger configuration, the vast composition of which was at present - that at least was clear - by no means even nearly completed. With this elegant conclusion that we never stop learning as long as we live, I am ready to dive into the third book of the dance. Before that, I have a few more bookmarks that I would like to remember from the present novel:on the subject of finding the universal in the particular, Nick gains... a belief that existence fans out indefinitely into new areas of experience, and that almost every additional acquaintance offers some supplementary world with its own hazards and enchantments. As time goes on, of course, these supposedly different worlds, in fact, draw closer, if not to each other, then to some pattern common to all. >><<>><<on parting from a friend :I certainly felt sad that I should not see Mr. X again. The milestones provided by him had now come to and end. The road stretched forward still. >><<>><<on the quest for love, growing up is often associated with heartbreak and disillusionment :... in so far as I was personally involved in matters of sentiment, the season was, romantically speaking, autumn indeed, and the leaves had undeniably fallen from the trees so far as former views on love were concerned: even though such views had been held by me only so short a time before. >><<>><<Popular A Buyer's Market By Anthony Powell go inside Book The second novel in Anthony Powell s brilliant twelve novel sequence, A Dance to the Music of Time.Discover the extraordinary life of Anthony Powell captured by acclaimed biographer Hilary Spurling in Anthony Powell Dancing to the Music of Time available now in hardback and ebook from Hamish Hamilton.. Anthony Dymoke Powel CH, CBE was an English novelist best known for his twelve volume work A Dance to the Music of Time, published between 1951 and 1975.Powell s major work has remained in print continuously and has been the subject of TV and radio dramatisations In 2008, The Times newspaper named Powell among their list of The 50 greatest British writers since 1945.. A viral Ebook A Buyer's Market 2. -- A BUYER'S MARKETAnd so the Dance continues in its beginnings. The second period interval is still part of the dawn of times. The main contribution with this term is that the dancers begin to acquire shape. They also become much more numerous, and I now begin to fear a multitude, given how poor my memory for names is, when the do not have a face. Luckily I am accompanying my read with an audio version, which appropriately adds the musicality of the human voice to the dance. The brilliant reader endows each name with a different voice, and so, if not their physical features, it is their accent, intonation, and timbre that helps me distinguish them all from each other.As the title indicates, at stake here are the professions that the young male characters have to start paving for themselves. When there are Buyers, there are also Sellers. The steps of the dancers in this volume involve finding their place in society: writing & painting and/or Money for the men, dancing & coming out (and/or Money) for the ladies.For what comes to the fore in the second act is that we are witnessing a choreography in which, as the various dancers chose their places, two sets will interplay with each other, possibly alternating between a harmonic and mellifluous pas de deus and a jarring, dissonant and antagonistic confrontation. Power and the Arts cavorting and frolicking in a dazed prance.But the dance continues and is beckoning me… I ought to go back.