Powell loses his way in a sort of pallid drizzle of New Age babble, picke up at third hand along with his other impressions of 'the Sixties', and allows even his most robust characters to succumb to runes, horoscopes, and the sickly blandishments of Aleister Crowley. To invert, in fact, what has been so often and unfairly said against Powell, the verdict here must be that events are random and unstrung rather than intricately coincidental. The series does not end or conclude, still less achieve a resolution. It just stops.That's Christopher Hitchens in 1998, on the last volume of Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time. (The piece, "Powell's Way," is in his book Unacknowledged Legislation.) His parting shot is damning: "I first began to read Dance when it was incomplete and there was something to look forward to. The pleasure then afforded was rather greater than that which is offered by a long look back."
I read Hitchens's assessment when I was not quite done with the Dance, but maybe this was good—my expectations for the ending were sufficiently depressed that I found it (and the last volume in general) very much to my liking.
I've been thinking about the way the Dance ends recently, thanks to all the pieces regarding the Sopranos conclusion—the multi-year series "just stops," apparently, on a (seemingly?) mundane note. (I saw a few of the early episodes years ago, but haven't kept up.) But maybe that's the best way? Better than, say, a shootout or explosion?
Dizzyhead Levi has some more in-depth musings on these lines (though alas, he isn't a Sopranos aficionado, either!)—and I see that he discusses another Crowley (who I'm currently reading, hopefully to write about)...very intriguing...
UPDATE: Levi's second Powell installment.