Should I bother with the rest of 'A Dance to the Music of Time'?

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed
I just finished the first book. While it wasn't entirely tedious, I didn't really like it as much as I'd expected to - do they get better? Am I missing something?

franny (frannyglass), Thursday, 2 November 2006 14:24 (seventeen years ago) link

I enjoyed it.

M. White (Miguelito), Thursday, 2 November 2006 14:57 (seventeen years ago) link

I'd say yes. The magic part of the book for me was the interweaving of the characters' lives over the course of the entire 12 parts. Lots of unforgettable moments throughout the whole thing.

Jaq (Jaq), Thursday, 2 November 2006 15:52 (seventeen years ago) link

I found it addictively enjoyable. I'm pretty sceptical about its claims to being "good literature" (if such a thing exists), and I wouldn't want to make a case for reading it to anyone who thought it just wasn't obviously enjoyable. Even after 12 volumes I was genuinely disappointed when I started getting close to the end and realised there would soon be no more of it -- I tried reading some of Powell's other novels, but they are a very patchy and even the better ones aren't as good as the "Dance" sequence.

From memory, things do start to get more compelling with the second one and I think it would at least be worth trying. If you don't like that, I'd give up. The early-to-middle books are the best, and the quality does shade off towards the end of the sequence -- he's less comfortable once it gets past the end of the 50s -- but if you're still reading by that point you'll probably have come round to the view that second-rate Dance is still better than no Dance at all.

frankiemachine (frankiemachine), Thursday, 2 November 2006 17:57 (seventeen years ago) link

Dude, you know if you managed to finish it the end would flatten you, just on sheer build-up. Not that that's ever gotten me beyond the second volume, but still.

nabisco (nabisco), Thursday, 2 November 2006 20:52 (seventeen years ago) link

Thanks for the advice, folks.

I actually rather liked the first book, but not to the point where I feel the need to extend the experience for another (probable) 11 weeks. I think I was expecting it to be hilariously funny, for some reason, and it wasn't.

I think I'll give the second one a try - not right way, maybe it'll be on my Christmas list - and take it from there. I'm hoping that spreading it out over time will make it easier.

franny (frannyglass), Friday, 3 November 2006 01:15 (seventeen years ago) link

If you like resolution, walk away. If you don't think it's hilarious, walk away.

You've Had Your Chances (noodle vague), Friday, 3 November 2006 03:25 (seventeen years ago) link

hilarious huh

Josh (Josh), Friday, 3 November 2006 05:51 (seventeen years ago) link

two months pass...
If you're looking for hilarious, look no further than Masters of Atlantis by Charles Portis.

Mike Lisk (b_buster), Tuesday, 30 January 2007 21:21 (seventeen years ago) link

I couldn't say that I found the first book hilarious but there is enough momentum developed through the accretion of significance to each successive encounter with Widmerpool (or Stringham, or Sillery or whoever) to sustain my interest in reading the second volume and probably the rest thereafter. And I presume that's the raison d'etre for the sequence, that a thousand pages into it you should be sufficiently involved in your observation of Jenkins' life to feel a rush of foreboding and inevitability at the reappearance of this character or that, as the dance circles round again. Usually I'm in a rush to leave the world of any novel, but not this one.

Eoghan Barry (Old Rottenhat), Wednesday, 31 January 2007 03:17 (seventeen years ago) link

five months pass...

I find lots of it hilariously funny.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Tuesday, 10 July 2007 17:54 (seventeen years ago) link

I read this in 2000/2001 and am surprised how much of the whole thing I remember. And also how much I'd like to read it again.

Jaq, Tuesday, 10 July 2007 18:01 (seventeen years ago) link

If you're looking for hilarious, look no further than Masters of Atlantis by Charles Portis.
I'm more likely to finish the entire Dance To The Music of Time series starting from scratch than I am of ever finishing Masters of Atlantis. And I say this as a Charles Portis fan.

James Redd and the Blecchs, Tuesday, 10 July 2007 18:07 (seventeen years ago) link

Just started rereading it today.

frankiemachine, Wednesday, 11 July 2007 12:56 (seventeen years ago) link

sixteen years pass...

yeah

read 1 from somewhere in the middle of the cycle a bunch of years ago (forget the title, it's set during the 2nd world war) & liked it enough that i resolved to some day read the whole lot of em from the beginning

started doing that thing a few days ago & so far, 2 thumbs up

donald wears yer troosers (doo rag), Tuesday, 2 July 2024 10:26 (one week ago) link

imo best way through it is taking it as individual short novels - roughly the same length as his earlier comic novels or Decline and Fall by Waugh, say - rather than the big “seasonal” blocks.

i know there are those who can’t stand the fetishising of the decadence of the english class system and its artefacts but i really enjoyed it, particularly 1-6 ie up to and including The Kindly Ones.

Fizzles, Tuesday, 2 July 2024 10:59 (one week ago) link

my gf is reading this atm and enjoying it, will press her for more detail later

imago, Tuesday, 2 July 2024 11:11 (one week ago) link

The sequence as a whole definitely follows a hump-shaped curve - slow to start, peaking around the middle, a steep decline in the last couple of books (although they still have their moments).

Ward Fowler, Tuesday, 2 July 2024 11:52 (one week ago) link

Oh yes, she says the first book was heavy going but 2 and 3 are excellent and very funny

imago, Tuesday, 2 July 2024 19:10 (one week ago) link

i must admit i think the first three are as good as anything else in the sequence. agreed the last few have their moments and the arc of widmerpool is grotesque and fascinating.

Fizzles, Tuesday, 2 July 2024 19:25 (one week ago) link

I started this a few years ago and stalled after the first book. I enjoyed it but I felt the creeping fatigue of what Fizzles called 'the fetishising of the decadence of the english class system and its artefacts' even in that short book .

I would prefer not to. (Chinaski), Tuesday, 2 July 2024 21:05 (one week ago) link

Tolerance for the first book depends on how much of goings on in a quasi-Eton setting you can take, I suppose. Much of it reads like a slightly melancholic version of Jennings & Derbyshire. But the early appearances of Widmerpool and Uncle Giles lend it an air of absurdity and are already well-realised comic characters with (in Widmerpool's case) a sinister edge. It "opens up" more in subsequent books and (FWIW) the war trilogy is some of the best writing about WWII that I have read.

Critique of the Goth Programme (Neil S), Wednesday, 3 July 2024 09:12 (one week ago) link

Melancholic version of Jennings? I'm nicking it off her when she's done

imago, Wednesday, 3 July 2024 09:13 (one week ago) link


You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.