Have you ever read 11 novels in a 12 novel cycle, and just wanted it all to end? Have you ever read 11 novels in a 12 novel cycle? I have!
Anthony Powell‘s vast series, “A Dance to the Music of Time,” seemed like a good idea back when I started it. 11 novels ago.
And I enjoy it while I’m reading it, but come on! Just end already.
It covers the lives of a circle of friends and associates in bohemian and upper class England from a bit before WWII until the 70s. There are some 500 characters that come and go and come again.
Actually, that coming and going is part of the point of the novels. That in life, we lose touch with people who are important to us, then maybe see them again in 10 years and everything has changed. That change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, really. It’s just not what it was.
And you say, huh, so he’s doing THAT now? He’s married to HER?
This was before Facebook, of course.
Just as in life, no one is spared age, infirmity, and death. The wonderful and exuberant boys the narrator yukked it up with in college end up dead in a Japanese POW camp, or on some battlefield. That part is pretty sad.
It’s interesting to me when he says that some guy in his 40s still has (or doesn’t have) the youthful spark that he used to. I’m in my early (early early) 40s and I can’t help wondering what he’d say about me.
Anyway, I want it to be over.
In other authors, Lynd Ward is a guy I’d never heard of until the day I bought his books from the Library of America. Ward is dead anyway, so he won’t mind that I didn’t know him.
He created six “novels without words.” That is, the books are all pictures (woodcuts, in fact), without any explanatory text. The Library of America is selling a set of all six, in two volumes, introduced by Art Spiegelman, who knows a thing or two about illustration and graphic storytelling.
I’ve “read” two of the novels so far. Man, are they dark. I don’t want to spoil anything (unlike Spiegelman, who ruined two of the books in the introduction before I stopped reading it), but yikes. Don’t fall in love with the characters, that’s all I’m saying.
The pictures are really very interesting, and there are some that I think I’ll remember for a long time. I was worried that maybe I wouldn’t understand what was happening, and though I did flip back once or twice, for the most part, I got it.
Part of the appreciation of the books is in understanding how hard it is to make 100 plus woodcuts, let alone use them to tell a story. Impressive.
So my next book with either be the last of the Powell series, or (more likely) something easy and light to combat Ward.
What are you reading?