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A Dance to the Music of Time – his brilliant 12-novel sequence, which chronicles the lives of over three hundred characters, is a unique evocation of life in twentieth-century England. The novels follow Nicholas Jenkins, Kenneth Widmerpool and others, as they negotiate the intellectual, cultural and social hurdles that stand between them and the “Acceptance World.”


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A Dance to the Music of Time – his brilliant 12-novel sequence, which chronicles the lives of over three hundred characters, is a unique evocation of life in twentieth-century England. The novels follow Nicholas Jenkins, Kenneth Widmerpool and others, as they negotiate the intellectual, cultural and social hurdles that stand between them and the “Acceptance World.”

30 review for Temporary Kings

  1. 4 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    “Leave we the unlettered plain its herd and crop; Seek we sepulture On a tall mountain, citied to the top, Crowded with culture!” A Grammarian's Funeral by Robert Browning This poem, quoted in the novel, is a kind of a key… They’re high on a mountain and looking down… Unlike the proverb ‘All roads lead to Rome’ this time around all roads led to Venice so all key figures of the novel have found themselves there. ‘You’ll live like a king once you get there.’ ‘One of those temporary kings in The Go “Leave we the unlettered plain its herd and crop; Seek we sepulture On a tall mountain, citied to the top, Crowded with culture!” A Grammarian's Funeral by Robert Browning This poem, quoted in the novel, is a kind of a key… They’re high on a mountain and looking down… Unlike the proverb ‘All roads lead to Rome’ this time around all roads led to Venice so all key figures of the novel have found themselves there. ‘You’ll live like a king once you get there.’ ‘One of those temporary kings in The Golden Bough, everything at their disposal for a year or a month or a day – then execution? Death in Venice?’ ‘Only ritual execution in more enlightened times – the image of a declining virility. A Mann’s a man for a’ that. Being the temporary king is what matters.’ The novel also boasts the apparent traits of an intellectual mystery. “Knowledge is the treasure of our unsealed fountains.” All those who elbowed their way to earthly power and gaudy glory are just temporary kings – their downfall is inescapable… Sic transit gloria mundi.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Algernon (Darth Anyan)

    They say you lose your head for nostalgia, as you get older The words of Hugh Moreland echo the drift towards introspection and regrets that started in the previous volume, as Nick Jenkins embarks on a comprehensive study of melancholy in the last part of his twelve step Dance. Venice, with its beautiful vistas and sunny climate might look like an improbable venue for such downbeat storytelling, but the author is quick with the literary references about the transience of beauty and the inevit They say you lose your head for nostalgia, as you get older The words of Hugh Moreland echo the drift towards introspection and regrets that started in the previous volume, as Nick Jenkins embarks on a comprehensive study of melancholy in the last part of his twelve step Dance. Venice, with its beautiful vistas and sunny climate might look like an improbable venue for such downbeat storytelling, but the author is quick with the literary references about the transience of beauty and the inevitable ending: ... one of the temporary kings in ‘The Golden Bough’, everything at their disposal for a year or a month or a day – then execution? Death in Venice? Nick Jenkins is at the pinnacle of his literary career, and one of the perks an established author enjoys is an invitation to an elite conference where intellectuals from all over the world meet to discuss the current cultural landscape. Jenkins brings to the banquet table his keen observations powers, his subversive sense of humour and a more recently developed cynical streak, a deeply seated disenchantment with most of his peers ( ... fellow nomads of the intellect, Bedouins of the cultural waste, for ever folding and unfolding their tents in its oases. ) and with the world in general. Each recriminative decade poses new riddles, how best to live, how best to write. One’s fifties, in principle less acceptable than one’s forties, at least confirm most worst suspicions about life, thereby disposing of an appreciable tract of vain expectations, standardized fantasy, obstructive to writing, as to living. [...] After passing the half-century, one unavoidable conclusion is that many things seeming incredible on starting out, are, in fact, by no means to be located in an area beyond belief. As we meet old friends and enemies, and as we are offered new characters to study, the major tonality is no longer the usual enchantment with the miriad way the human spirit manifest itself in unexpected directions, but the presence of rot and darkness that is constantly revealed under the glitter of gold an crystal. Widmerpool is back ( ... now who the devil can that be? with his signature surprise entrances), slimier than ever despite his newly acquired peerage, engaged in secret deals with an Eastern nation and in a clash of wills with his volatile consort, Pamela. Mrs. Erdleigh, the famous clairvoyante, is still waiting in the background for her chance to utter some obscure warnings of doom. The survivors of the pre-war London jet-set are still making waves in the palatial mansions on the Grand Canal. Yet the Dance is drifting across the Atlantic, passing the cultural flame into the hands of two new characters: Louis Glober - American magnate, publisher, movie producer, playboy, globe trotter, closet melancholic man – and Russell Gwinnett – earnest young poet and biographer from the Midwest. Both men are linked to the star of the previous novel, X Trapnel, the unconventional and self-destructive novelist that befriended Nick and fell under the spell of Pamela Widmerpool. Glober wants to finance a movie based on the last Trapnel novel. Gwinnett wants to write a detailed biography of his life. Both men also fall into the spider web woven by the still dangerous Pamela. This is not a new observation pertaining to the Dance, but in this episode, more than in any of the previous ones, I was struck by the author’s insistence on giving the contemporary text a universal dimension by linking the personal dramas of his characters to classical literary myths. The key scene in Venice is a visit to an old palace, there to have everybody inspect a fresco by Tieopolo depicting the story of Candaules and Gyges: Oh, yes – the picture on the ceiling? You mean that? You want more explanations? Well, the wife there, whose husband arranged for his chum to have a peep at her in that charming manner, handled things by getting the chum who’d enjoyed the eyeful to do the husband in. It’s the same tragedy with comic overtones that was used by Michael Ondaatje in his “English Patient” to illustrate the doomed love affair of one man for his friend’s wife, a tale originating in Herodotus that Powell still finds fascinating in the context of Widmerpool and his wife’s indiscretions. The mythical angle is not restricted to the affairs of the heart. Powell spends a good portion of the novel exploring the undercurrents shaping the state of the novel (and art in general) in the new world order. Classicism and Romanticism are illustrated by the personalities of the new characters introduced, Glober and Gwinnett taking over from Jenkins himself and from Trapnel. With the addition of Tokenhouse, an expat painter living in Venice, Ferrand-Senechal, a French opportunist and Dr Brightman, a pragmatist, the discussion is expanded to embrace the Decadents, Naturalism, Socialist Militant Realism, translations from Dostoyevsky and the subversive nature of Dr Zhivago. Here again it was hard to apportion epithets. In one sense, Glober, the practical man, was also the ‘romantic’ – as often happens – Gwinnett, working on his own interior lines, the ‘classical’. Gwinnett wanted to see things without the illusory trimmings; Glober forced things into his own picturesque mould. [...] Was the analogy to be found in quite other terms of reference: Don Juan for Glober, Gwinnett in Faust? The intellectual stimulation of the text is undeniable, although the plotless nature of the series and the accumulation of past events and references to former part-time players did slow down the lecture for me. I liked the younger Jenkins a bit more than his more cynical quintagenarian self, but I am still in awe of the occasional gems and of the dark flashes of humour (as in Kenneth getting hit in the face with a fruit, again!) , even if I had to dive for a dictionary to get his halcyon references. I am grateful to Powell for the chance to improve my reading skills, echoing X Trapnel’s claim that Reading novels needs almost as much talent as writing them . A mist of heat hung over the dome and white campanile, beyond the glittering greenish stretch of water, across the surface of which needles of light perpetually flashed. It was so calm the halcyon’s fabled nest seemed just to have floated by, subduing the faintest tremor of wind and wave. The ending of the episode takes place in London, with a Mozart extravaganza that brings together many of the surviving characters, conflict and farce walking hand in hand. Hugh Moreland, on his way out, captures again the spirit of the Dance flawlessly: ‘I always enjoy this title - Cambyses, King of Percia: a Lamentable Tragedy mixed full of Pleasant Mirth.’ ‘What’s it like?’ ‘Not particularly exciting, but does summarize life.’ The bittersweet farewells, (view spoiler)[ surprisingly the most painful being Pamela Flytton’s suicide, for ever keeping under lock the secrets of her fiery heart (hide spoiler)] , are illustrated with a quatrain from Omar Khayyam, uttered again by Moreland from a hospital bed: For some we loved, the loveliest and the best, That from his vintage Rolling Time hath pressed. >><<>><<>><<>><< Only one book left in the series, and I am almost afraid to start it, loath to say goodbye to more of the personages that made the Dance such a stimulating experience. Mrs. Erdleigh prefaces the last episode with an (ironic?) discussion with Jenkins about transcendence: ‘You mean not long before he achieved the Eighth Sphere to which Trismegistus refers?’ ‘Exactly’ ‘Where, as again Vaughan writes, the liberated soul ascends, looking at the sunset towards the west wind, and hearing secret harmonies. He calls this world, where we are now, an outdoor theatre, in whose wings the Dead wait their cue to return to the stage.’ If it’s true that the world is a stage, then the show must go on, and Nick Jenkins will receive one last call in front of his audience. I will be there, ready to applaud his exit.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ted

    Each recriminative decade poses new riddles, how best to live, how best to write. One’s fifties, in principle less acceptable than one’s forties, at least confirm most worst suspicions about life, thereby disposing of an appreciable tract of vain expectation, standardized fantasy, obstructive to writing, as to living. or perhaps Takes place: summer 1958 to early summer ’59; then recollections of November ’59. Nick Jenkins now in his early 50s – thus has entered his sixth decade. Book publishe Each recriminative decade poses new riddles, how best to live, how best to write. One’s fifties, in principle less acceptable than one’s forties, at least confirm most worst suspicions about life, thereby disposing of an appreciable tract of vain expectation, standardized fantasy, obstructive to writing, as to living. or perhaps Takes place: summer 1958 to early summer ’59; then recollections of November ’59. Nick Jenkins now in his early 50s – thus has entered his sixth decade. Book published: 1973. Anthony Powell then entering his late 60s. Nick Jenkins is catching up with him in years. The main characters (by roughly the number of pages they are referenced on – with new characters in bold) – Pamela Flitton (Lady Widmerpool), Louis Glober, Prof. Russell Gwinnett, Widmerpool, X. Trapnel, Dr. Emily Brightman, Hugh Moreland, Odo Stevens, Ada Leintwardine, Leon-Joseph Ferrand-Seneschal, Lindsay (‘Books-do-etc.’) Bagshaw, Jacky Bragadin, Rosie Manasch. This my choice as a likeness of Lady Widmerpool, she the leader of the cast in the present drama Five of these leading characters are either foreign or have foreign connections. Glober and Gwinnett are both Americans; Emily Brightman is British, but held an academic position in the States long enough to become well-acquainted with Gwinnett; Jacky Bragadin, son of a Venetian, married into a Philadelphia family of vast wealth. Only Ferrand-Seneschal has no American association, being a French Marxist intellectual. Temporary Kings So, who are these “kings”? And why temporary? Old pal Mark Members (who latterly has found himself a very satisfactory fourth wife – American as it happens) offers Jenkins a visit to Venice by way of attendance at a literary conference. The conversational inducement includes, “… such meetings of true minds … (can offer) a potent drug. Besides, even at our age there’s a certain sense of adventure … Come along, Nicholas, bestir yourself … You’ll live like a king once you get there.” Jenkins skeptical reply: “One of those temporary kings in the Golden Bough, everything at their disposal for a year or a month or a day – then execution?” So a first suggestion, kings not only of a tribe/people, but also of a cult, religion, a specific time of year – planting, growing season, harvest. In some cases the king executed once the event has elapsed, in others after the traditional period. Frasier suggests that some in ancient times followed this practice to assure (ritually, rather than rebelliously) that a ruler would not continue in command after an age associated with declining strength and mental acuity. Jenkins also considers the advantage of being able to rub elbows, or merely cast eyes and ears towards, “a few additional pieces in the complex jigsaw making up the world’s literary scene.” This a suggestion implying a furtherance of the previous volume’s themes of the writing and publishing crowds, both of which he has current or recent connection to in a more than superficial fashion. Here we would be concerned with the royalty of these tribes, particularly of writers – and “temporary” can easily be ascribed to many, both writers and books advancing and retreating in favor almost as a matter of course. St John Clarke certainly the example of such. Widmerpool an example, too, of a temporary king – having ascended to the Lords, then through revelations and accusations having been pushed lower in the chain of being by novel’s end. To say nothing of Pamela, though in her case her royalty a Queenly realm of men first enthralled by her looks, later held in sexual bondage till she’s finished with them; the end of her reign quite unlike any other. We could go on. The Venetian palace now owned by Jacky Bragadin, who hosts there many of the main characters during the Venetian interlude – lending all of them a temporary aspect of royalty. The Tiepolo ceiling in this palace, offered to a flock of the Conference litterateurs as a previously unseen and rather scandalous work – “an unclothed hero, from his appurtenances a king, reclined on a divan … One single tenuous fold of gold-edged damask counterpane, elsewhere slipped away from his haughtily muscular body, undeniably emphasized (rather than concealed) the physical anticipation… of pleasure to be enjoyed in a few seconds time; for a lady, also naked, tall and fair haired, was moving across the room to join him where he lay.” While, standing in the shadows, his personal friend, invited to observe. painting by Gerome The ceiling by Tiepolo exists only in Powell’s novel The hero, Candaules, indeed temporary, at least in one version of the legend - in which his exhibited Queen avenges herself by commanding the interloper to aid in killing the king. (artist unknown, to the reviewer) This art, its concomitant legend, studied by many of the Venetian attendees as highlight of the palace tour, assumes an unusual role in the complex story woven by Powell, affecting the relations of Widmerpool, his wife, the American scholar Gwinnett; as well providing a setting for the on-the-spot lecture by Dr. Brightman, and affecting her own relations, chiefly of interest to herself, with those previously mentioned. And Brightman herself, certainly suggested as royalty, more than once accompanied by her court, sometimes such court spontaneously forming as she begins to declaim. But the Americans. Might they not be newly recognized, if yet to be marked temporary, kings? The Americans, curiously almost absent from the war-time novels in the series, Jenkins having few if any contacts with this ally, none at all in course of his duties. The narrative now suggests that in the succeeding post war years, hardship fading into memory, a new reality confronts the British home front, “America” becoming a more insistent touchstone for the artistic intelligentsia, even American “culture” seeping (or is it sweeping?) into that of the Isles. This idea could be thrown into the mix of all those above. Against this long list of suspects, perhaps the most likely idea, it seems to me, is that Powell’s main “temporary kings” theme is that of the arc of everyman. Once into our fifties we have all, no matter to what degree successful, so long as still present and accounted for, reached whatever rung of “royalty” will be our peak vantage point. From there, we gaze out at not only the sphere of influence and excellence which we have attained, but also look back at earlier chapters, things accomplished and overcome, and feel some sense, however modest, of our worth. Fully knowing, as we do, that from this certainly temporary peak, going forward implies descent. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Previous review: Studs Lonigan Next review: Last Comes the Egg Older review: Organization Man Previous library review: Books Do Furnish a Room Next library review: Hearing Secret Harmonies

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    "Anthony Powell is the best living English novelist by far. His admirers are addicts, let us face it, held in thrall by a magician" Temporary Kings (1973) is the penultimate volume of Anthony Powell’s twelve-novel series “A Dance to the Music of Time” and opens in the Summer of 1958, eleven years on from Books Do Furnish a Room (Volume 10). The star of this volume is Pamela Widmerpool who manages to trump her previous feats of outrageous behaviour. As with other volumes, new characters appear and "Anthony Powell is the best living English novelist by far. His admirers are addicts, let us face it, held in thrall by a magician" Temporary Kings (1973) is the penultimate volume of Anthony Powell’s twelve-novel series “A Dance to the Music of Time” and opens in the Summer of 1958, eleven years on from Books Do Furnish a Room (Volume 10). The star of this volume is Pamela Widmerpool who manages to trump her previous feats of outrageous behaviour. As with other volumes, new characters appear and long standing characters reappear. Despite the familiarity of so many of these characters, Powell still manages to provide surprises, along with new insights. The late X Trapnell even managing to retain a presence throughout much of this book too. Having created the magical world of this literary masterpiece, which shines a light on relationships, personal values and social history, I cannot wait to discover how Powell wraps the saga up. Finishing the twelfth and final volume, Hearing Secret Harmonies, will be a bittersweet moment. This has been one of the most enjoyable literary journeys I have experienced.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    "Reading Novels needs almost as much talent as writing them." - Anthony Powell, Temporary Kings "Candaules, King of Lydia, Shews his Wife by Stealth to Gyges, One of his Ministers, As She Goes to Bed", by William Etty Powell's 11th book (book 2 in the Fourth Movement, 11/12 in the Series, the Penultimate*) Temporary Kings opens at an international literary conference in Venice. The literary pot is beginning to boil. Who knew the literary world was such a Casino Royale of intrigue. I really think Po "Reading Novels needs almost as much talent as writing them." - Anthony Powell, Temporary Kings "Candaules, King of Lydia, Shews his Wife by Stealth to Gyges, One of his Ministers, As She Goes to Bed", by William Etty Powell's 11th book (book 2 in the Fourth Movement, 11/12 in the Series, the Penultimate*) Temporary Kings opens at an international literary conference in Venice. The literary pot is beginning to boil. Who knew the literary world was such a Casino Royale of intrigue. I really think Powell set this novel's beginning in Venice to make the reader think of the Romantic era, but also of the Doges of Venice and all those dukes and kings that seemed to rise and fall during the period between Rome and the Romantics. Hell, I'm probably way off, but that's my wall and I'm going to lean against it. “Le Roi Candaules,” Jean-Léon Gérôme More than almost any book, except the series itself (Dance to the Music of Time), Temporary Kings seems dominated and driven by a work of art. Art and music, like food and sex, are scattered in all of Powell's novels, but in this one, a painting of Candaules and Gyges by Tiepolo. In the myth Candaules, the Lydian (Sardis) king has a fatal enthusiasm to show his queen’s naked body to his lieutenant Gyges (without her knowledge or permission). She discovers her husband's peeping sin and invites Gyges to kill him and take his place on the throne. Powell practically beats the reader over the head with this idea. The myth itself is fairly melodramatic (characters in the book discuss the myth as a perfect Opera story), but also seems to parallel some of the activity of some major characters. * I've been waiting a helluva long time to say that in a review of these books. 11 down, 1 to go.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    This can best be described as a romp through the literature, art, music and cinema of the late 1950's, through the eyes and ears of Nick Jenkins as he and his friends enter middle-age with the experience and cynicism needed to chart their course. The most risque of the 11 books read so far. Favorite quotes from this one: "You know growing old's like being increasingly penalized for a crime you haven't committed." "Nothing fails like success." "Reading novels needs almost as much talent as writing This can best be described as a romp through the literature, art, music and cinema of the late 1950's, through the eyes and ears of Nick Jenkins as he and his friends enter middle-age with the experience and cynicism needed to chart their course. The most risque of the 11 books read so far. Favorite quotes from this one: "You know growing old's like being increasingly penalized for a crime you haven't committed." "Nothing fails like success." "Reading novels needs almost as much talent as writing them." Am looking forward to #12, and the conclusion of this trip into the past.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Perry

    Marital confrontation worthy of comparison to Shakespearean epos!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Katie Lumsden

    I enjoyed this one, as I do with all the series, although I don't think the last few are my favourites in the series. Interesting characterisation, great writing and some really powerful moments. I enjoyed this one, as I do with all the series, although I don't think the last few are my favourites in the series. Interesting characterisation, great writing and some really powerful moments.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Connie G

    In "Temporary Kings" Nick Jenkins is attending a literary conference in Venice around 1958. He meets Russell Gwinnett who is writing a biography of X. Trapnael, a novelist who was featured in the last book. The conference tours cultural locations, including the Bragadin Palace with its fictional impressive ceiling painted by Tiepolo. The subject of the painting, the story of Candaules and Gyges, sets the stage for other events. Art, literature, music, film, and Eastern European politics are impor In "Temporary Kings" Nick Jenkins is attending a literary conference in Venice around 1958. He meets Russell Gwinnett who is writing a biography of X. Trapnael, a novelist who was featured in the last book. The conference tours cultural locations, including the Bragadin Palace with its fictional impressive ceiling painted by Tiepolo. The subject of the painting, the story of Candaules and Gyges, sets the stage for other events. Art, literature, music, film, and Eastern European politics are important in this book. Some characters are aging and declining in health. Kenneth and Pamela Widmerpool spice up the story as they engage in scandalous behavior. "Temporary Kings" is # 11 in the series, "A Dance to the Music of Time," which follows a large group of English friends and family over fifty years.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This is the penultimate in his twelve-volume masterpiece, A Dance to the Music of Time. It was published in 1973 and remains in print as does the rest of the sequence. The title is a possible reference to The Golden Bough, which has a section with the same title concerning the practice in the ancient world of appointing kings for a brief period, at the end of which they would be executed. The novel introduces a surreal element, mischievously portraying the literary world as politically corrupt an This is the penultimate in his twelve-volume masterpiece, A Dance to the Music of Time. It was published in 1973 and remains in print as does the rest of the sequence. The title is a possible reference to The Golden Bough, which has a section with the same title concerning the practice in the ancient world of appointing kings for a brief period, at the end of which they would be executed. The novel introduces a surreal element, mischievously portraying the literary world as politically corrupt and riven with dark deeds. After the passage of a decade the consequences of unyielding ambition are suggested by the storm brewing around Powell's dark angel, Kenneth Widmerpool. Espionage and even necrophilia are hinted at. 4* A Question of Upbringing (A Dance to the Music of Time, #1) 4* A Buyer's Market (A Dance to the Music of Time #2) 4* The Acceptance World (A Dance to the Music of Time, #3) 4* At Lady Molly's (A Dance to the Music of Time, #4) 4* Casanova's Chinese Restaurant (A Dance to the Music of Time, #5) 4* The Kindly Ones (A Dance to the Music of Time, #6) 4* The Valley of Bones (A Dance to the Music of Time, #7) 4* The Soldier's Art (A Dance to the Music of Time, #8) 4* The Military Philosophers (A Dance to the Music of Time, #9) 4* Books Do Furnish a Room (A Dance to the Music of Time, #10) 3* Temporary Kings (A Dance to the Music of Time, #11) TR Hearing Secret Harmonies (A Dance to the Music of Time, #12)

  11. 5 out of 5

    Eleanor

    Another wonderful volume in this terrific series. I took a long time over it because of other demands on my time,not because of any lack of enjoyment to be had. That extraordinary creation, Pamela Widmerpool carves her usual swathe through those unfortunate enough to cross her path. Various characters old and new do not disappoint each time they appear and reappear in the dance. Alas, only one volume remains, and I intend to read it over the next few days, Christmas and other events permitting.

  12. 5 out of 5

    George

    This is the 11th book in the ‘A Dance to the Music of Time’ series and is an entertaining, humorous, pleasant read, set in Venice, then London, in the 1950s. The narrator, Nick Jenkins, meets a number of old acquaintances in Venice, including Mrs Pamela Widmerpool, Mr Widmerpool, a member of the House of Lords. He also meets Mr Glober, an American film producer and Mr Gwinnett whose is writing a biography on deceased author, Mr Trapnel. There are a couple of particularly memorable scenes, one be This is the 11th book in the ‘A Dance to the Music of Time’ series and is an entertaining, humorous, pleasant read, set in Venice, then London, in the 1950s. The narrator, Nick Jenkins, meets a number of old acquaintances in Venice, including Mrs Pamela Widmerpool, Mr Widmerpool, a member of the House of Lords. He also meets Mr Glober, an American film producer and Mr Gwinnett whose is writing a biography on deceased author, Mr Trapnel. There are a couple of particularly memorable scenes, one being Pamela’s fixation with and description of a sex scene painted on a dining room ceiling. The other being Pamela’s indiscreet confession to a group of acquaintances awaiting a taxi in the middle of the night. Here are some quotes from the novel that I enjoyed and that give good examples of Powell’s writing style: ‘I had not expected him to be in the least senile, but the sharpeness of his manner may have been amplified by some apprehension, shared by myself, that changes must have taken place in both of us during the last twenty years, which could prove mutually disenchanting.’ ‘Enormous simplifications were possibly necessary to carry a deeper truth than lay on the surface of a mass of unsourced detail.’ ‘You know growing old’s like being increasingly penalised for a crime you haven’t committed.’ Whilst each of the 12 books in the ‘A Dance to the Music of Time’ series can be read as stand alone books, it is definitely better if you begin with the first book in the series, ‘A Question of Upbringing’, as the books follow one another in chronological order beginning with the narrator, Nick Jenkins, at Eton College in the 1920s.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Renee M

    Wow! Book 11 of the Dance is the most scandalous and a fabulous wild ride through the lives of Nick's collection of friends and acquaintances. Somewhat surprising since we are in the winter of their lives. The most notorious are LORD Kenneth Widmerpoole (why didn't I see that coming) and his wife, Pamela (née Flitton). But we hear from a host of characters we've come to expect including several long dead and several we might not expect. Lots of art in its many manifestations, (literature, music, Wow! Book 11 of the Dance is the most scandalous and a fabulous wild ride through the lives of Nick's collection of friends and acquaintances. Somewhat surprising since we are in the winter of their lives. The most notorious are LORD Kenneth Widmerpoole (why didn't I see that coming) and his wife, Pamela (née Flitton). But we hear from a host of characters we've come to expect including several long dead and several we might not expect. Lots of art in its many manifestations, (literature, music, painting, and now film) intertwining the passions, emotions, aspirations, successes, failures, and minutia of human life as observed by Nick Jenkins. It's hard to believe these people are now middle-aged and that we've traveled with them through their entire lives over the course of the series. As with so many others, I have high expectations of the final book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. *Spoilers ahead* In my post about the previous volume in the Dance to the Music of Time series, Books Do Furnish a Room, I briefly discussed the nature of Powell’s presentation how times and culture shifts over the half century that the story spans. I found myself meditating on that subject all the more in the most recent volume, and the penultimate of the series, Temporary Kings. As usual, Powell gives his readers no exact dates to pin down the time frame of the story he is telling. During the s *Spoilers ahead* In my post about the previous volume in the Dance to the Music of Time series, Books Do Furnish a Room, I briefly discussed the nature of Powell’s presentation how times and culture shifts over the half century that the story spans. I found myself meditating on that subject all the more in the most recent volume, and the penultimate of the series, Temporary Kings. As usual, Powell gives his readers no exact dates to pin down the time frame of the story he is telling. During the set of books that cover the years of the war, we were given a few hard events that allowed us to place the action of the books within a particular year, but beyond that, we are always left to surmise what time has passed and what year we are in. We are told in Books Do Furnish a Room that Fission, the magazine at the center of the novel, appeared soon after the end of the war and ran for two years, so it is clear to us that the events take place sometime in the last half of the 1940s. Early in Temporary Kings we learn that the writer X. Trapnel has been dead some ten years and that it had been a few years before his death since Nick, our narrator, has seen him. That puts us sometime in the 1960s, but where exactly, we don’t know. What I find so interesting about this vague portrayal of time is that it runs completely contrary to how I anticipated the series progressing. I knew when I started A Question of Upbringing, that the series would take us a half century down the road, that we would be moving from pre-war England through the war and into the Modern era, quite possibly all the way into the 1970s. This knowledge set up expectations that this change of culture and the world would be at the heart of what Powell is showing us. There are admittedly many ways to tell a story that leisurely covers a 50 year period, but the examples available to me before A Dance to the Music of Time have always played up history over the character, like Forest Gump moving through key historical events, showing us a version of history and the American culture and counter-cultures that Gump lived through. None of that takes place for Powell. We get no major political figures or geo-political events around which our humble characters dance. Even during the war, we are kept in England and experience the war from a very different angle than the history books. If history is told as the great actions of great people, then Powell’s account of this eventful period attempts to capture something very different from the history that is taught in schools. To be sure, Powell’s characters exist in a specific time and culture—he is not avoiding those environmental factors at all. There is a great deal of politics and cultural trends, but they infuse every scene rather than take center stage themselves. We see the forces of culture and counter-culture sliding up against each other, sometimes smoothly and sometimes with great friction, but always through the interaction of characters thrown together by fate and Powell’s loose plotting. Two things are achieved by this subtle and powerful approach. The first achievement is that Powell captures life and time as it is lived. The political and cultural events of the world are things that have meaning only through the lens of hindsight. We never know what will be the issues of the history until the facts are gathered and an overarching narrative is stitched together by historians. What we experience is a whole host of currents and issues that may strike our fancy but that are always second to the pressing matters of life, the bills that need to be paid, the care of loved ones, and the gossip of our friends and relations. Life is intensely personal and fluid. History is an inhuman construct in its way. Powell touches upon this very notion in Temporary Kings, when Nick considers Gwinnett’s efforts to make meaning out of all the stories surrounding Trapnel: “Enormous simplifications were possibly necessary to carry a deeper truth than lay on the surface of a mass of unsorted detail. That was, after all, what happened when history was written; many, if not most, of the true facts discarded.” Powell walks a fine line, and walks it beautifully, between giving us the “mass of unsorted details” and the “enormous simplifications” necessary to have his tales carry both life and meaning. The second achievement is the emphasis of continuity rather than change as time is experienced in life. Any student of history could tell you about the great social changes between the 1920s and the 1960s, but Nick’s constant narrative voice and refusal to present a pre-packaged view of cultural changes drives home how life as lived is a continuous experience, with very few moments changing everything. Nick, now in his 50s sounds the same as he did in the first volume, which is exactly how we feel our own lives. The face in the mirror might warp with gravity and time, but inside we feel like the same people we always were. And when we meet up with old friends, we quickly see past their physical changes to find the same soul interacting with us in the same way. When Nick meets up with Moreland, now also in his 50s, Nick gives us a brief description of Moreland’s aging but then gets right on with the conversation and story, and we are right back with Moreland as we were six books ago. The characters that keep moving in and out of Nick’s ken are the same to us as ever, and as the world changes all around us, it is that continuity that becomes the focus rather than change. Characters’ political beliefs may alter or hold steady, but they themselves are a mark of sameness. It is a remarkable achievement to present a kind of anti-history that does nothing to deny the movement of time while simultaneously showing that its power over us is minimal. Lives may come and go (and there is certainly a high body count over the course of the eleven novels so far), but life is the same as it ever was. To shift gears to the specifics of Temporary Kings, yet another fantastic volume, I want to spend just a moment looking at a theme unique to it: reliable and unreliable narrators. While first-person narratives are notorious for their unreliable narrators, Nick has our confidence in every way. He is impartial with no ego in the tale, since he avoids his own personal life almost entirely. Up to this point, nearly every account given in the novels has been witnessed by him first hand or told to him, which he retells directly to us. By contrast, there are two points in Temporary Kings in which the narrative has to be cobbled together by Nick from the telling of multiple other witnesses. First, we have Pam’s nude appearance in Bagshaw’s home, and second is the drama following the Seraglio performance. Nick goes to great lengths to tell us journalistically what happened, admitting where the narrative is weakest and where strongest. This journalistic effort is echoed by Gwinnett’s attempts to gather the tales and experiences of Trapnel through all the accounts of those that knew him. Gwinnett says in his letter to Nick early in the final chapter of the novel that “he still believed in ‘aiming at objectivity, however much that method may be currently under fire.’” Apparently there was a time in the early 1960s in which subjective narratives were much preferred to objectivity, perhaps arguing the objectivity was unattainable to begin with. This is one of those moments that the general cultural issues are treated by Powell as specific and personal. Why Powell chooses this narrative objectivity as his theme for this novel is unclear to me, but it seems tied up with Pamela Widmerpool. In many ways, Temporary Kings is about Pamela Widmerpool. She is at the heart of both questionable narratives, and even at the heart of Trapnel’s narrative with which Gwinnett is struggling. Pam is a character unlike any other in the novel, and one of the few personalities that Nick can’t seem to crack. Is her role as a “modern” woman important? Is her mythical nature important? It is interesting that she is both thoroughly modern and mythically timeless, like the tale of Candaules and Gyges. Gwinnett refers to her as “the castrating woman,” and Moreland tells the urban legend of the women who literally castrate a man. She is someone onto whom others place their feelings and ideas. Nick observes that she seem to exist solely in the world of sex, but notes that her behavior makes other people see her that way. He makes no claim about what her world actually consists of. She is both of the moment and a legend, part human and part cautionary tale. And under all that, there is something tragic about poor Pamela, more misunderstood and tortured than just about any other character in the series. It is unclear to me what, if anything, Powell is getting at with her character and her role in the breakdown of objectivity, but it feels packed with meaning to me. I am excited to read the final book in the series, Hearing Secret Harmonies, and although the book wasn’t published until 1975, I am reading it next to keep up the momentum of the story. I will return to 1973 and Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow after I conclude this series.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Realini

    Temporary Kings by Anthony Powell Fascinating 10 out of 10 I am enthralled by A Dance to the Music of Time, the masterpiece of the astonishing Anthony Powell, now nearing its end. This is the eleventh volume and alas, there is only one left. After some delays, meant to prolong the joy of reading this extraordinary book, I am coming to the final chapters. In Temporary Kings some of the characters have returned and others have never left center stage, or did so briefly. Kenneth Widmerpool and his wife P Temporary Kings by Anthony Powell Fascinating 10 out of 10 I am enthralled by A Dance to the Music of Time, the masterpiece of the astonishing Anthony Powell, now nearing its end. This is the eleventh volume and alas, there is only one left. After some delays, meant to prolong the joy of reading this extraordinary book, I am coming to the final chapters. In Temporary Kings some of the characters have returned and others have never left center stage, or did so briefly. Kenneth Widmerpool and his wife Pamela are in the lead roles, for most of this volume, albeit in negative roles. Pamela Widmerpool is not nice, but perhaps I was harsh in placing her among the dark personages, but she is mischievous in a few occasions. At the start, we listen to some songs in Venice, where a conference is attended by Nick Jenkins and other luminaries. We meet a few new people, most notable among them the Americans- scholar and teacher Russell Gwinnett and the magnate Louis Glober He plans to write a biography of Trapnel and since the latter had an affair with Lady (by now) Widmerpool, Russell is keen to meet her. Pamela Widmerpool has a crash on the strange Russell Gwinnett that develops while she was courted by Louis Glober. The rich American collects cars and…women, and is intent on financing and producing a film that keeps changing the oeuvre it is supposed to be based on. There are some strange goings on in Venice that involve a painting by Tiepolo, with a subject that would later cause reference to …Lord Widmerpool. Apart from his weird sexual preferences that make for some heated scenes, the villain is also involved in spying. Pamela Widmerpool is so taken by the American professor that she starts not only to follow him but to impose her presence on the young man. When in London, Russell Gwinnett decides to lodge in the most unusual circumstances, to try and live like the subject of his biography. Apart from mixing with a rather unfrequentable crowd, he decides to rent a room in a house full of people, young and old. The grandfather of the family needs to use the restroom one night and he has to go downstairs to do that. On his way he sees a very unusual sight- that of a naked woman. - The nude person is Pamela A row ensues, with the younger women of the crowded house shouting at each other, since one or more seems to have had an interest in the American lodger. The guest seemed to be involved with a different woman, who was naked and meditating in the most inappropriate place. The reader is reminded of the fact that this character had been involved in all kinds of mischief and is married to the most despicable man there is. There are some hilarious scenes and some that are weird and humorous. One involves Louis Glober who is exposed and admits to cutting “pussy hair” from all the women he has slept with. He turned that into a pillow. An extraordinary volume, like all the other ten before and surely as the last in series that will have to wait a little, for I do not want the pleasure to end soon.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    We're in Venice this week, where we've just finished taking part in an international workshop on speech and language technology. Somewhere around the middle of the first day, it struck me that the setup was eerily similar to the opening of the penultimate volume of A Dance to the Music of Time. Nick, who I think is now in his mid 50s, is also attending an academic conference here. He and the other members of his generation are treated with respect, but they're starting to feel increasingly margi We're in Venice this week, where we've just finished taking part in an international workshop on speech and language technology. Somewhere around the middle of the first day, it struck me that the setup was eerily similar to the opening of the penultimate volume of A Dance to the Music of Time. Nick, who I think is now in his mid 50s, is also attending an academic conference here. He and the other members of his generation are treated with respect, but they're starting to feel increasingly marginalized by the energetic young people who have begun to take over the narrative. And Death is no longer an unexpected and shocking guest: he's now taken for granted, and it's just a question of who's next. The conference hall even had a ceiling with an huge fresco illustrating a classical theme. Though, somewhat disappointingly, the subject wasn't as racy as the one in Powell's book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Hunter

    Each recriminative decade poses new riddles, how best to live, how best to write. One’s fifties, in principle less acceptable than one’s forties, at least confirm most worst suspicions about life, thereby disposing of an appreciable tract of vain expectations, standardized fantasy, obstructive to writing, as to living. [...] After passing the half-century, one unavoidable conclusion is that many things seeming incredible on starting out, are, in fact, by no means to be located in an area beyond Each recriminative decade poses new riddles, how best to live, how best to write. One’s fifties, in principle less acceptable than one’s forties, at least confirm most worst suspicions about life, thereby disposing of an appreciable tract of vain expectations, standardized fantasy, obstructive to writing, as to living. [...] After passing the half-century, one unavoidable conclusion is that many things seeming incredible on starting out, are, in fact, by no means to be located in an area beyond belief.Temporary Kings presents Nick and crew continuing to “dance” in the late 1950s. Nick’s now in his 50s, and in a reflective mood on what it means to be “of a certain age.” As with Books Do Furnish a Room, a melancholy mood prevails. Dear friends get sick and die, acquaintances dabble (allegedly) in necrophilia, suicides happen, couples (I mean you, Widmerpools!) beat the crap out of each other. Heavy stuff! Powell gives readers some lighter moments in Venice, but darker, adult-y things loom constantly. Besides the gloom, I’ll remember Temporary Kings for the quotes. Dicky Umfraville gets high marks for: “You know growing old’s like being increasingly penalized for a crime you haven’t committed.” Then there’s this absolute beauty: “Reading novels needs almost as much talent as writing them.” And how about some reunion-relevant wisdom: “I had not expected [Tokenhouse] to be in the least senile, but the sharpness of his manner may have been amplified by some apprehension, shared by myself, that changes must have taken place in both of us during the last twenty years, which could prove mutually disenchanting.” Anthony Powell’s a gem. Now it’s on to Hearing Secret Harmonies.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Hallinan

    This is the penultimate book in the most brilliant 20th-century series I know of. It's not always my favorite of the twelve volumes; some of Powell's writing about the young people of the late 60s -- this was written in 1973, and he was almost seventy years old, so "Scorpio Morlock," that great name notwithstanding, is a bit of a caricature -- but in the end, this book is worthy of inclusion in what Clive James calls "the greatest modern novel since "Ulysses." These books came to my rescue when I This is the penultimate book in the most brilliant 20th-century series I know of. It's not always my favorite of the twelve volumes; some of Powell's writing about the young people of the late 60s -- this was written in 1973, and he was almost seventy years old, so "Scorpio Morlock," that great name notwithstanding, is a bit of a caricature -- but in the end, this book is worthy of inclusion in what Clive James calls "the greatest modern novel since "Ulysses." These books came to my rescue when I was in my 20s and have seen me through each decade since. I've read them four times, and they're fresh and new every time, as they should be since the characters have aged right along with me. And aside from everything else, they contain an unequaled cast of characters (both main and supporting) some of the most magisterial English prose I've ever read, and also some of the funnist. An enduring treasure.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tom Ewing

    I get the feeling twentieth-century Venice had a definite association with sex, death and secrets, arising from its status as a kind of artistic Vegas, a city where the intellectual and rich could alike escape to and where romantic or unspeakable things might occur. That's certainly one of the roles it plays in Temporary Kings, which spends two-thirds of its length in Venice over a several-day period - probably the most focused the Dance has been in setting and time since the second volume, if n I get the feeling twentieth-century Venice had a definite association with sex, death and secrets, arising from its status as a kind of artistic Vegas, a city where the intellectual and rich could alike escape to and where romantic or unspeakable things might occur. That's certainly one of the roles it plays in Temporary Kings, which spends two-thirds of its length in Venice over a several-day period - probably the most focused the Dance has been in setting and time since the second volume, if not across the whole series. These sections are very strong, and surprisingly pacy, the density of incident and intrigue almost whipping itself up into a plot. But this is - to some extent - illusory, a byproduct of the setting: not just the city, but the odd, half-work, half-holiday atmosphere of a conference. The novel seems to be speeding towards the final acts of Widmerpool's career and his marriage - and you could say it gets there, but ultimately in a very oblique manner. In the end, it's another, sadder farewell that occupies Jenkins, the narrator, after the Venice bubble deflates - very subtle plotting by Powell, moving the more sensational events offstage in favour of those that mean more to our narrator, whose emotion, as ever, comes across more in subtleties of emphasis than direct expression. The narrator's expression changes in another way - there's a lot more, or at least franker, talk of sex in Temporary Kings than in any previous novel. Even when Nick Jenkins' own sex life was a main concern of the books, preferences and peccadilloes weren't as candidly discussed as here. It's refreshing, offering a key to Widmerpool's increasingly risky behaviour, and that of several others. There's a few ways of reading this from a narrative perspective - Jenkins may be less concerned about such things himself (and hence feels freer to speak) but the opposite is just as credible. And to be honest, the publication date - the early 70s - will play as much of a part. It's a shift that only helps this story of the late ripeness of personal and professional lives.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sammy

    "Come, let's away; the strangers all are gone." -- Shakespeare, 'Romeo and Juliet' Time's hand is often a cruel one. For those of us with fond memories of the past, our youth, our joys and ecstasies, it can sometimes be a comfort. Yet every encounter with the past - a nostalgic dinner conversation, an unexpected reunion with a lost acquaintance, the Proustian involuntary memory of the madeleine dipped in tea - runs the risk of tearing down our illusions: revealing the ulterior motives of one we th "Come, let's away; the strangers all are gone." -- Shakespeare, 'Romeo and Juliet' Time's hand is often a cruel one. For those of us with fond memories of the past, our youth, our joys and ecstasies, it can sometimes be a comfort. Yet every encounter with the past - a nostalgic dinner conversation, an unexpected reunion with a lost acquaintance, the Proustian involuntary memory of the madeleine dipped in tea - runs the risk of tearing down our illusions: revealing the ulterior motives of one we thought had found us attractive, surprising us with a catty remark made behind our backs, or startling with a sympathetic character portrait of someone we had dismissed. (I well recall, in my youth, my first successful audition for a main role on the stage. It was a meaty role alongside brilliant actors, and I was obnoxiously proud to join the company. Years later, I happened to run into an actor acquaintance from that time. He told me - assuming that I knew - that, after the auditions but before contracting me, the director had reached out to him and another actor to see if they were available. He was sharing an amusing coincidence, an alternate-history in which he played the role rather than I. Yet, all I was hearing was the reveal that even though I must have been the best of the auditionees, I was a poor enough performer that the director sought out two outside hires before settling on me due to their lack of availability!) Temporary Kings takes up this theme on a broad scale - although not at first. More than half of the novel is set in Venice, about a decade after we last saw Jenkins, Widmerpool, Pamela, and their cohort. The ravages of Time have killed off so many of the series' characters, that these are really the only three we still care about (perhaps in the case of the latter two, I should say "have a morbid interest in"). The spinning plates of the Dance are beginning to settle; our focus is narrowing. Here, these three spend an enlightening time in Venice as part of a literary conference, along with a slew of new characters, who provide us with a great deal more discussion of literature and art. In some ways, it is a strange transition for the series to make, especially as we are racing toward its end. Yet art has always been an underlying subject matter of the series and indeed Powell's well-known aesthetic tendencies suggest he sees art appreciation and moral character as inevitable soulmates. (One of the new characters, Tokenhouse, dismisses Widmerpool off hand, recognising that the man has no interest in art "good or bad".) Much is made of the psychological destruction of the late X. Trapnel and the offstage deaths of several other figures from the murky past. But it is the grotesque, vicious, sexually malevolent marriage of Pamela and Widmerpool - sorry, Lord Widmerpool - that makes up the meat of this particular volume. I know we're supposed to dislike Pamela, and yes she is certainly a negative force in the world of the Dance. But - like Nick at novel's end - I have rather a strong respect for her. Perhaps she has just been doing what she feels is necessary to get by. Perhaps it is merely in the shadow of her husband's self-serving, face-saving villainy, she seems a figure of force rather than evil. Or perhaps I am quite mad. Either way, if Pam's exploits are the subtext of much of the Venice sequence, Widmerpool's dominate the novel's latter sections. Nick (sometimes along with Isobel) attends three functions: a war reunion dinner, a reception at the Soviet Embassy, and a Mozart opera. At each, old friends update him on the growing scandal around Widmerpool's alleged espionage activities, as well as a few other tidbits about characters we have loved or loathed. What is interesting is that Powell indulges more in a technique I wish he had used liberally in the early volumes. Nick - whom Powell often made arrive at, or observe, events despite a slight silliness to his presence - has, throughout the series, often heard reported tales which he recounts to us. But here, he sometimes gets multiple versions, and has to decipher the truth based on his knowledge of the participants, and his knowledges of the biases of those relating the story to us. It is a much more invigorating conceit and - while not unprecedented in the series - would, I feel, have given more weight to the earlier volumes. There have been many ambiguities, of course, oh so many; still I yearn for more. Trying to rate this novel on a five-star scale seems an exercise in absurdity. As the penultimate volume in a series of staggering worth, Temporary Kings has great power. Every character appearance is now weighted with such history, and the abrupt jump in time (the first time more than a couple of years have passed between books) creates the powerful effect of seeing familiar faces through the disconcerting prism of age. It's a technique Proust makes great use of in his final volume, and I assume Powell will take up the mantle in Hearing Secret Harmonies. If there are flaws, they are only perhaps in a slight lack of "spirit of place". Powell was pushing 70 as he wrote this volume, and had spent the last two decades as an increasingly respected novelist, alternating between his grand home - a literary haven for the well-heeled - and yearly holidays abroad. The late 1950s for him were not fertile grounds for literary material. (And, Hilary Spurling notes in her biography of the author, he was also racing to finish the series lest he should pass away; in the event, Powell would live another quarter-century, unwisely releasing dense volumes of autobiography and diaries that would rather tarnish his image!) Whereas the novels set in the 1920s and 30s, and the War Trilogy, have a vibrant lived-in quality, this volume feels occasionally airless. There are references to the Cold War, of course, and notes of time passing, as when Hugh Moreland suggests that his obituary will not refer to him as "Mr Hugh Moreland since it is no longer the custom to include that salutation. Yet one feels strongly the puppeteer hand of the author, bringing his characters together at conferences and operas, without much sense of how they relate to the world around them. Perhaps it doesn't matter; at this stage, we are so invested in the people themselves that the world-building has drifted away. A New York Times review from 1973 said that, despite the series still being enjoyable for fans, "one goes on reading the “Dance,” feeling rather like a guest enjoying himself at a party after the band has left and the hosts have gone". I can't say I entirely disagree.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    A good portion of this book takes place in a Venetian drawing room, as most of the characters in this 12-volume epic work stare at and discuss a painting on a ceiling. There it is, their lives, each character seeing themselves as part of the art. If you choose only to read one of these twelve volumes, I recommend this one, as the writing is extraordinary and you need only an enjoyment of written words to be awed by Powell's talent. A good portion of this book takes place in a Venetian drawing room, as most of the characters in this 12-volume epic work stare at and discuss a painting on a ceiling. There it is, their lives, each character seeing themselves as part of the art. If you choose only to read one of these twelve volumes, I recommend this one, as the writing is extraordinary and you need only an enjoyment of written words to be awed by Powell's talent.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Illiterate

    Powell suggests that as we age, life becomes flat and nostalgic. Perhaps that’s why the Dance becomes less comic and more sensationalist.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    Yes, triumph: I'm now up-to-date with my reviews! This second-to-last instalment was excellent, but not quite up to the extremely high standards of 'Books do Furnish a Room'. The depravities of Widmerpool are laid bare in the most embarrassing fashion - he is obviously one (but not the only) of the Temporary Kings, which are brought down. There's a fabulous description of an imaginary painting of Tiepolo depicting the myth of Candaules and Gyges, which led me on this, deserving a wide audience: htt Yes, triumph: I'm now up-to-date with my reviews! This second-to-last instalment was excellent, but not quite up to the extremely high standards of 'Books do Furnish a Room'. The depravities of Widmerpool are laid bare in the most embarrassing fashion - he is obviously one (but not the only) of the Temporary Kings, which are brought down. There's a fabulous description of an imaginary painting of Tiepolo depicting the myth of Candaules and Gyges, which led me on this, deserving a wide audience: https://picturesinpowell.com/2016/07/...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Catullus2

    Nick is in his fifties and dwells much on melancholy and nostalgia. I’m feeling sad that there’s only one more volume left.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    Quite rightly, Anthony Powell understood that the marginal stuff of one's life often shines an unexpected light on the zeitgeist that contains it, in this case the decline of the British Empire in the 20th century. These observant, quietly accumulative novels - to a greater or lesser extent romans a clef - weave a tapestry that extends from political and mercantile power and privilege to artistic poverty and seediness, with Nick Jenkins, Powell's alter ego, acting as an Everyman riding between t Quite rightly, Anthony Powell understood that the marginal stuff of one's life often shines an unexpected light on the zeitgeist that contains it, in this case the decline of the British Empire in the 20th century. These observant, quietly accumulative novels - to a greater or lesser extent romans a clef - weave a tapestry that extends from political and mercantile power and privilege to artistic poverty and seediness, with Nick Jenkins, Powell's alter ego, acting as an Everyman riding between these worlds. The Pyrrhic victory of the Second World War has now led us through the austere 1950s to around 1960, with Nick turning 50 and very few of his contemporaries from the early books still standing. Nostalgia, possession, voyeurism and jealousy are the main themes, with a liberal dose of the Widmerpool double act. It gets a touch racier than the earlier entries, with sex on a society matron's dinner table, husbands watching their wives in action and hints of amour fou. There is a parallel, however, in the voyeurism of the literary biographer and the academic world in general. We all turn so many details from the past into staging grounds for the present. Here Great Britain, cautiously regaining its feet after its hubristic drunken tumble, is unsure how to feel about its faded glories, just as the society types glimpsed here in their autumn years have taken on an unshakeable ambivalence. The fresco by Tiepolo that is described here is apparently invented, but it places this novel squarely into the tradition of stories that use a work of art to inform and even structure the proceedings. It allows Powell to use Venice, such a great metaphor at all times for glamour and decay. The touch of using his ex-employer blustering eccentrically to the delight of the pragmatic American film producer is a nice touch. If Nick had only realised what an unwitting connector he is. In the social networking world he could have been a contender. Obviously, anyone reading this will have to have read all (or at least most) of the foregoing novels. This is part of a tapestry of observations, a very English form of remembrance of times past, which subtly and not-so-subtly settles some of Powell's outstanding scores, while laying the Empire and all its foibles to rest. Nick's responses in conversations are almost always questions and succinct confirmations. He lets the others speak, saving his own words for the act of description. As such he acts as a conduit, bridging the distance between the puffed-up and pragmatic arriviste that is Widmerpool with the rather chaotic bohemians X. Trapnel and Bagshaw. The approach is self-effacing and ambitious all at once, for who else but a controller could force his characters to dance to the music of time itself? And has he left out his own slips and peccadilloes in the same way he has left out the faces (or indeed the entire existence) of his children? This penultimate book is a little more satisfying than some of the immediately preceding volumes and points us towards a plausible summation just as the 1960s are setting in.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    TEMPORARY KINGS is the eleventh and penultimate volume in Anthony Powell's sequence "A Dance to the Music of Time", which follows Nicholas Jenkins and his social circle through several decades of 20th-century Britain. With this novel, we make a great leap in time, for over ten years have elapsed since BOOKS DO FURNISH A ROOM. Events in that novel are so far in the past as to be but vague memories. In the late 1950s Nicholas Jenkins attends a writers' conference in Venice, where among the whole le TEMPORARY KINGS is the eleventh and penultimate volume in Anthony Powell's sequence "A Dance to the Music of Time", which follows Nicholas Jenkins and his social circle through several decades of 20th-century Britain. With this novel, we make a great leap in time, for over ten years have elapsed since BOOKS DO FURNISH A ROOM. Events in that novel are so far in the past as to be but vague memories. In the late 1950s Nicholas Jenkins attends a writers' conference in Venice, where among the whole left-wing literary crowd of earlier entries in the series, we are introduced to two new, American characters. Gwinnett is an academic preparing a biography of X. Trapnel. Glober, on the other hand, is a millionaire movie producer whom, we are informed in flashback, Jenkins had already briefly met in the 1920s. Naturally both encounter Pamela Widmerpool, who continues to destroy the lives of every male character in her path. Though later scenes in the novel return us to Britain, the Venice episode takes up over half of the novel. It's awfully tedious, and the comedy that marked earlier volumes is generally missing. And though I've accepted the random encounters of characters before (the "dance", after all, of the series' title), it's hard to believe that so many people, some with no connection to the conference, just happen to be in Venice at the same time. This volume also reveals Powell to be running out of ideas, especially when it comes to documenting characters' sexual lives, which is the bulk of the plot here. Yet another female character is outed as a lesbian with the same generic description as earlier volumes -- except for Pamela, the female characters in the Dance have never been but two-dimensional. Then, at the climax of TEMPORARY KINGS, a scandalous revelation is made about Kenneth Widmerpool's tastes, but his particular fetish belonged already to another character and we've heard enough about it that it's hard to be really scandalized that Widmerpool shares it. TEMPORARY KINGS isn't completely worthless. The last few pages of the novel, where some horrible events are described only indirectly, is skilfully done. I'll continue with the Dance, but now I'm grateful there's only a single volume left.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Simon Mcleish

    Originally published on my blog here in April 2000. The penultimate novel in The Dance to the Music of Time has the more significant part of its plot set in Venice, where events are set in motion which later come to a head in London. Most of the Venetian action revolves around a little known Tiepolo fresco on the subject of Candaules and Gyges. There are various versions of this Greek legend, but basically Candaules was a king of Lydia who hid his general Gyges in the royal apartments so that he Originally published on my blog here in April 2000. The penultimate novel in The Dance to the Music of Time has the more significant part of its plot set in Venice, where events are set in motion which later come to a head in London. Most of the Venetian action revolves around a little known Tiepolo fresco on the subject of Candaules and Gyges. There are various versions of this Greek legend, but basically Candaules was a king of Lydia who hid his general Gyges in the royal apartments so that he could see for himself the beauty of his queen. Either Gyges then becomes infatuated by the queen, or she discovers what her husband has done and seduces Gyges in a fit of pique, but whatever happens, Candaules was eventually deposed from his throne and his marriage bed by his general. (This is part of the point of the title.) This legend bears a particular importance to the novel, but its ironic intent is also clear: like Gyges, the readers are voyeurs of the lives of the people that the author has chosen to exhibit to us. The main interest of the novel is, as in the last few books preceding it in the series, the marriage of Kenneth (now a life peer) and Pamela Widmerpool. One of their arguments provides the climactic scene of the novel, which is a brilliant piece of writing. Powell abandons his usual first person narrative to give us the scene as pieced together by Nick Jenkins from accounts told to him by actual witnesses. This gives it both a feeling of unreality (the reader is alienated from the action, which itself is interrupted by discussions about which witness is likely to be most reliable in remembering particular aspects of the scene) and portentousness (by recalling a legal trial). It is perhaps the best writing in the whole series. As a novel, Temporary Kings suffers from similar problems to the earlier parts of A Dance to the Music of Time. There are far too many coincidental meetings; and Pamela Widmerpool in particular is not a very believable character (interesting though she may be). The Venetian scenes are not terribly impressive, though necessary to set up the brilliant climax which makes the book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    “The Venetian trip, contrary to the promises of Mark Members, had not renewed energies for writing. All the same, established priorities, personal continuities, the confused scheme of things making up everyday life, all revived, routines proceeding much as before. The Conference settled down in the mind as a kind of dream, one of those dreams laden with the stuff of real life, stopping just the right side of nightmare, yet leaving disturbing undercurrents to haunt the daytime, clogging sources o “The Venetian trip, contrary to the promises of Mark Members, had not renewed energies for writing. All the same, established priorities, personal continuities, the confused scheme of things making up everyday life, all revived, routines proceeding much as before. The Conference settled down in the mind as a kind of dream, one of those dreams laden with the stuff of real life, stopping just the right side of nightmare, yet leaving disturbing undercurrents to haunt the daytime, clogging sources of imagination — whatever those may be — causing their enigmatic flow to ooze more sluggishly than ever, periodically to cease entirely.” --- I bought my set of Dance to the Music of Time online from a used book seller. Each of the twelve books is pocket-sized and cream-coloured (perhaps originally white), most in pretty good shape. Temporary Kings had at some point before arriving in my hands suffered water damage, enough to create a permanent wave in the pages which crackled when bent and refused to straighten. Unlike with most paperbacks, it felt good to bend back the cover while reading, giving the impression of improving the book’s physical state rather than abusing it because only then did the wave disappear. The edges of the pages showed where whatever liquid it was had soaked into the fibres, although the surface of the pages were not discoloured. It was a book I would have kept in my pocket if I’d had a pocket that was big enough to hold it. It felt like a book to read alone in a pub over a hot and savoury meal covered in gravy while it rained outside. Instead I began reading it immediately after finishing the preceding novel in the lounge at the airport in Singapore waiting for the flight to Frankfurt while my travel companion napped in the chair across from me; continued it in bed before going to sleep, on the bus in the morning dizzy with sleepiness, on the walks to and from bus stops on the way to school or home while the daylight lasted, and finally in the living room today while high winds blew all sorts of weather past our windows.

  29. 5 out of 5

    gwayle

    Powell continues to rely heavily on caricature in this penultimate installment, particularly with Pamela and her newly introduced match: Russell Gwinnett, a possibly necrophiliac, and certainly death-obsessed, American scholar writing a biography of X. Trapnel. Another American, Louis Glober, a playboy tycoon, is also added to the cast of characters, and Jenkins's strained attempts to characterize Americans, who always seem to baffle the poor Brits, are amusing. Much of the plot takes place in V Powell continues to rely heavily on caricature in this penultimate installment, particularly with Pamela and her newly introduced match: Russell Gwinnett, a possibly necrophiliac, and certainly death-obsessed, American scholar writing a biography of X. Trapnel. Another American, Louis Glober, a playboy tycoon, is also added to the cast of characters, and Jenkins's strained attempts to characterize Americans, who always seem to baffle the poor Brits, are amusing. Much of the plot takes place in Venice, which is atmospherically captured. In one subplot Widmerpool is accused of espionage and frantically tries to get in touch with some Eastern European scholar, but I found it confusing and didn't pay much attention to it--he's always getting into political hot water and seems adept and wriggling himself out true harm's way. One character has a meltdown of epic proportions in this novel, but it comes off as grotesquely comic rather than tragic. For some reason, Powell has removed Jenkins--always on the periphery, to be sure, but at least present at the key events--from two pivotal social scenes, which he only hears about secondhand. This is still wonderful reading, but I can't help but feel a bit sad to see farce replace subtlety and insight in these last installments. There's almost a bitterness that comes through: Jenkins's generation's time in the limelight is coming to a close (we are, after all, only "temporary kings"), and behavior becomes increasingly mystifying, ridiculous, and desperate at the fringes. Powell seems to have lost his compassion for many of his creations and gives several of them a round thrashing in this installment. Some of it is funny, but the laughter inspired is a bit nervous.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Some time has passed in Dance since the last installment and we find our original cast members in their fifties. The novel opens up in Venice at a writers conference where we meet Glober and Gwinnet, two Americans who feature throughout the novel. Gwinnet helps us recall Trapnel, and we find out his fate to and extent and both return to us the great Pamela Widermerpool mythos. By the second half, it is clear that the Widmerpools have a central role to play. Neither Widmerpool manages to polish t Some time has passed in Dance since the last installment and we find our original cast members in their fifties. The novel opens up in Venice at a writers conference where we meet Glober and Gwinnet, two Americans who feature throughout the novel. Gwinnet helps us recall Trapnel, and we find out his fate to and extent and both return to us the great Pamela Widermerpool mythos. By the second half, it is clear that the Widmerpools have a central role to play. Neither Widmerpool manages to polish their reputation, resulting in a very entertaining climax. These parts keep the same spirit that carries throughout Dance. There is, especially at the end, a more sober theme. As I mentioned already, the characters are no longer young and although many of the antics could take place within any age group, the loss of youth is having a profound impact on the lengthy work. Death has appeared more and more since the WWI sequence and is becoming increasingly close to the narrator. While Powell has not and does not write in a particularly emotional or personal way, the transition from middle adulthood into older adulthood is apparent and brings with it just a twinge of sadness. Of maybe I'm just anticipating the end of two years (or is it more?) worth of acquainting myself with the world of Nicolas Jenkins and am sorry to see the end so near.

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