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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Friday, January 9, 2015

How will Powell end his 12-volume series?

Toward the end of the final volume of Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time, the narrator (Nick Jenkins) comes across the omnipresent Widmerpool outside of the Stourwater mansion that was the scene of various previous episodes in this series - the industrialist Donners owned the mansion, and Widmerpool in his early career was Donners's toady - and now Widmerpool is in a blue robe, jogging through the countryside, and leading a group of the spiritualist-cultists, all of them about 20 years old or so. He is completely out of place and, by all accounts, has more or less lost his mind. When he learns from Nick that the grandfather of the bride (they're at Stourwater to celebrate the wedding of one of Nick's nieces, if I have that straight) is a man he'd offended years ago in boarding school, apparently ratting him out, with a suspicion, if I remember correctly, of homosexual advances, and the guy got expelled from the school. Widmerpool wants to make amends. He enters the old castle and joins the festivities and, when he sees the man he had wronged so long ago, he drops to all fours in abasement - an utterly weird scene. One of the elderly wedding guests falls over him and a bit of comic chaos ensues. Frankly, I thought that Powell would do more with this scene, that the intruders would turn the whole wedding celebration into some riotous Bacchanal, but in fact the scene kind of winds down, everyone goes outside, and a squabble between Widmerpool and Scorpio Mortland (have to love the names Powell comes up w. throughout these volumes; he's a Pynhon precursor there for sure), the true leader of the cult, get in an argument about whether members have the freedom to leave. The end of the series is in sight; throughout, Powell has tended not to do too much w/ conclusions - many of the volumes just seem to stop abruptly - but I expect more of him in this final volume, and would not be surprised if it ends with a fire or at least an image of a fire, as I recall that the very first scene in volume one involved the observation of sparks rising from a fire into a dark sky?

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