Monday, January 12, 2009

"Afternoon" delight

I. Have been scrutinizing an old favorite, Anthony Powell's Afternoon Men. Some quotes:

It occurred to him to begin writing a novel, but his brain was almost at a standstill and it would be a mistake to make a false start.

The aura of journalism's lower slopes hung around him like a vapour.

Fotheringham said: 'He's one of those brilliant men whose mind has become a complete blank.'
'Is he?'
'You can imagine what good company he is.'
'Yes, indeed.'
'All the brains and understanding there and never the least danger that they are going to become a nuisance.'

Taylor’s richly detailed work also calls attention to two breezy, auspicious first novels about the Bright Young People that are unfortunately out of print: Nancy Mitford’s “Highland Fling” and Anthony Powell’s “Afternoon Men.” Mitford was on the group’s periphery, and her book has much of the charm of “Vile Bodies”; Powell, a sometime member, shares Waugh’s piercing observations. Both novels appeared in 1931, an indication of how quickly the Bright Young People’s era receded. Even then Mitford, Powell and Waugh had the distance to mock its slight-as-a-bubble mentality. All three novels entice us into a frothy, evanescent world we have reason to envy, but not too much.
—Caryn James, "Oh So Amusing," NYT Book Review
, 1/11/09

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