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Invitation To The Dance: A Handbook to Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time

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'Hilary Spurling's handbook triumphantly succeeds in its twofold aim of being reference-guide and bedside companion; funny and observant too, as befits the subject.' -- Kingsley Amis, Observer A Dance to the Music of time is a literary landmark of twentieth-century writing. As the reader cavorts through the 12-volume novel alongside the narrator Nicholas Jenkins, it soon be 'Hilary Spurling's handbook triumphantly succeeds in its twofold aim of being reference-guide and bedside companion; funny and observant too, as befits the subject.' -- Kingsley Amis, Observer A Dance to the Music of time is a literary landmark of twentieth-century writing. As the reader cavorts through the 12-volume novel alongside the narrator Nicholas Jenkins, it soon becomes apparent that he inevitably confuses dates and events, but Hilary Spurling tidies up the most minute detail into its proper place. More than a simple glossary, Invitation to the Dance contains extensive Character, Book, Painting and Place indices, creating a magnificent database of Powell's imagination and England's cultural landscape. This is a masterpiece of 'extreme ingenuity' detailing over four hundred characters and one million words of Powell's lively fifty-year dance of fiction and fact. 'Hilary Spurling's exhaustive analysis of the novel's characters supplies a master-key for the reader' -- Anthony Powell


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'Hilary Spurling's handbook triumphantly succeeds in its twofold aim of being reference-guide and bedside companion; funny and observant too, as befits the subject.' -- Kingsley Amis, Observer A Dance to the Music of time is a literary landmark of twentieth-century writing. As the reader cavorts through the 12-volume novel alongside the narrator Nicholas Jenkins, it soon be 'Hilary Spurling's handbook triumphantly succeeds in its twofold aim of being reference-guide and bedside companion; funny and observant too, as befits the subject.' -- Kingsley Amis, Observer A Dance to the Music of time is a literary landmark of twentieth-century writing. As the reader cavorts through the 12-volume novel alongside the narrator Nicholas Jenkins, it soon becomes apparent that he inevitably confuses dates and events, but Hilary Spurling tidies up the most minute detail into its proper place. More than a simple glossary, Invitation to the Dance contains extensive Character, Book, Painting and Place indices, creating a magnificent database of Powell's imagination and England's cultural landscape. This is a masterpiece of 'extreme ingenuity' detailing over four hundred characters and one million words of Powell's lively fifty-year dance of fiction and fact. 'Hilary Spurling's exhaustive analysis of the novel's characters supplies a master-key for the reader' -- Anthony Powell

30 review for Invitation To The Dance: A Handbook to Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ted

    A dance!? Really?! I’m invited?? A Dance to the Music of Time. Nicolas Poussin. 1634-35. Yes, Hilary Spurling (view spoiler)[ a British writer, known for her work as a journalist and biographer (hide spoiler)] is indeed inviting you. And the location? Your favorite reading spot. This dance is none other than Anthony Powell’s magnificent ball, A Dance to the Music of Time. Like all multi-volume series of novels, Powell’s is filled with hundreds of characters. How does one keep them all straight? How A dance!? Really?! I’m invited?? A Dance to the Music of Time. Nicolas Poussin. 1634-35. Yes, Hilary Spurling (view spoiler)[ a British writer, known for her work as a journalist and biographer (hide spoiler)] is indeed inviting you. And the location? Your favorite reading spot. This dance is none other than Anthony Powell’s magnificent ball, A Dance to the Music of Time. Like all multi-volume series of novels, Powell’s is filled with hundreds of characters. How does one keep them all straight? How does one even know, when a vaguely familiar name appears, whether that vague memory is from earlier in the series, or from some other thing sunk deep in the well of one’s links to the past? Or even if the “memory” really is a memory? If you’re dancing Powell’s dance, Hilary has you covered. The book is what Anthony Powell, in a short introduction, calls “some sort of a glossary” to his twelve novels, a glossary which “has now been effected with extreme ingenuity” in the current book. In her own forward, Ms. Spurling notes that she has included in the book “virtually every character, factual or fictional (as well as one or two, like Trimalchio, who comes from other authors’ fictions), largely because it became impossible to decide who should and who shouldn’t be left out.” (Thus we find characters who are only mentioned on a single page of the twelve volumes included. Now these entries may or may not be useful, but they don’t take up but a line or two, so no harm done.) But for the more important characters, the entries are much more than a list of volumes and pages. For example, for “FLITTON, Pamela”, whom I have encountered for only 3 pages so far, as a six year old girl at another character’s wedding, there is a four page entry, tracing (in narrative prose, not page references) the arc she follows in the long story. The last one-third of this entry is the page references, and even here there’s a description with each (eg. “said to be Theodoric’s mistress 111; unidentified girl over whom Widmerpool lost his head in Cairo 116 … etc.”) which, if you’re actually looking for a specific episode which you recall the character in, is far superior to an index-like bunch of numbers. I’ll allow Hilary to describe in her own words what else is in the book besides this all-inclusive Character Index:Books read or written, paintings looked at and places visited play such a major part in the sequence that I have added a Book Index (covering literary matters in general), a Painting Index (covering the plastic arts) and a Place Index. The first two are arranged along much the same lines as the Character Index … The Place index is an altogether more ramshackle affair, since any comprehensive attempt to index places like Bayswater, the Tottenham Court Road or Jenkins’ university would degenerate into more or less meaningless lists of page numbers; so, generally speaking, I have simply pointed out the chief descriptive passages. Jenkins, of course, is the first person narrator of the entire twelve volume set of novels. The Character Index is 208 pages; the Book Index 50 pages; the Painting Index 26 pages; and the Place Index 24 pages. Spurling has also contributed a quite interesting Introduction titled “The Heresy of Naturalism: Some Notes on Structure”, which I underlined rather copiously. But I needn’t quote from that here. And at the back of the book is a 22 page synopsis of the whole series, by book and chapter. This is very useful for establishing general dates in the series, as opposed to leafing through a book endlessly searching for a date. For example we find here that A Question of Upbringing starts in December 1921, and ends at “Michaelmas term”, 1924. One thing which any potential acquirer of this book need be concerned with is the page references. One would like to have some faith that they will be useful while reading a particular edition of the novels which one has available to them. These references are described by Spurling as referring to “the current, revised editions published in England by William Heinemann Ltd and in the USA by Little, Brown & Co., and most recently reissued by Arrow Books.” This may not be very useful to some readers. The books I am personally reading are a 1976 paperback edition (in four volumes) by Popular Library, which is noted as being published by agreement with Little Brown & Co. All page numbers in Spurling’s book are accurate in my edition.) So, how to make this judgement? (view spoiler)[ I believe the easiest way to have some confidence that page numbers will be correct, is first to check a late page number from an early novel. So let’s give you a test. In the first novel of the series, A Question of Upbringing (which has 230 pages in my edition), here’s a Spurling reference: a book called Some Things that Matter, described as “Only book Uncle Giles every seen reading”: the page given as QU 230. Bingo (for me). Of course if one has an edition that is close but not exact, some sort of correction to Spurling’s page numbers can be done pretty easily if you are on good terms with numbers. I’ll make you an offer. If you have an edition that you can’t decide about, send me a message or leave a comment and I’ll help you decide how close the page numbers are to your books. (hide spoiler)] Highly recommended for anyone walking onto Powell’s dance floor. Although the book may be out of print, it is obtainable at Amazon US from third party sellers There are about forty used and new copies, priced from $10 to $18. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Previous review: Carlton photos of Next review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid Older review: Another World Pat Barker Previous library review: Hearing Secret Harmonies Powell Next library review: Voyage in the Dark Rhys

  2. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    Anthony Powell's sequence "A Dance to the Music of Time" is a huge work, twelve novels covering a span of 55 years, with over 400 characters. Soon after the completion of the Dance in the mid-1970s, Hilary Spurling wrote this handbook to assist readers who had gotten lost in its pages. It was originally published as HANDBOOK TO ANTHONY POWELL'S MUSIC OF TIME (London, Heinemann 1977), but reprinted by Random House UK in 2005. After an introduction by Powell, the Handbook consists of three main par Anthony Powell's sequence "A Dance to the Music of Time" is a huge work, twelve novels covering a span of 55 years, with over 400 characters. Soon after the completion of the Dance in the mid-1970s, Hilary Spurling wrote this handbook to assist readers who had gotten lost in its pages. It was originally published as HANDBOOK TO ANTHONY POWELL'S MUSIC OF TIME (London, Heinemann 1977), but reprinted by Random House UK in 2005. After an introduction by Powell, the Handbook consists of three main parts. The first is a Spurling's thoughts on the structure of the Dance, especially on how Jenkins' thoughts on the characters around him changes over time, and at any point in the Dance we may find his youthful perspective of the time or his later mature opinions. The second part is a series of indexes. The largest by far is the index of people in the text. This includes not only the fictional characters, but also obscure historical figures mentioned in the story (such as the Dolly Sisters, one of whom Stringham held to be the mother of the other). A brief listing of the character's goings-on with page numbers ends each entry. Spurling does not speculate on which real-life personalities Powell may have based his fictional characters on. There follow indexes on places, books and paintings mentioned in the Dance. (Readers especially interested in the paintings mentioned in the Dance should check out THE ALBUM OF ANTHONY POWELL'S A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME compiled by Lady Violet Powell). The last part is a synopsis of the Dance, proceeding scene by scene though all twelve novels and trying to relate the events to certain dates. This is not always possible, as Powell himself confesses in the introduction that the Huntercombes' dance in A BUYER'S MARKET refers to certain events of both 1928 and 1929 as contemporary. Still, the text has enough clues to create a mainly coherent chronology. I'd recommend this book mainly to passionate fans of Powell. This can be a helpful book, but it may not be so important for casual readers of "A Dance to the Music of Time" and doesn't need to be in one's personal library. Certainly one shouldn't get the impression that the Dance cannot be read at all without such a help.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    Original Review, Written while in the Midst of A Dance to the Music of Time This book is full of spoilers! I must hide it till I've finished the series. And Now I've Finished the Series and Read Invitation to the Dance Cover to Cover Note: This review contains some minor spoilers for A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell, though not nearly as many as Invitation to the Dance. Fannish appreciation This book made me nostalgic for Doctor Who Programme Guide: What's What and Who's Who , which I Original Review, Written while in the Midst of A Dance to the Music of Time This book is full of spoilers! I must hide it till I've finished the series. And Now I've Finished the Series and Read Invitation to the Dance Cover to Cover Note: This review contains some minor spoilers for A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell, though not nearly as many as Invitation to the Dance. Fannish appreciation This book made me nostalgic for Doctor Who Programme Guide: What's What and Who's Who , which I wore to shreds in the early 80s, rather like X Trapnel's copy of The Thin Man , which Invitation's Book Index tells me is mentioned on page 191 of Books Do Furnish a Room -- it takes some effort to find the reference in my edition, in which it's on page 204. Invitation to the Dance, which was published about four years earlier than the Programme Guide, has much the same idea as that pioneering work of fannish appreciation. It is a combination 'episode guide' and encyclopedia of characters and places and artworks mentioned in Anthony Powell's 12-book series A Dance to the Music of Time. Covering a much smaller text (a mere million or so words), it can offer considerably more detail about many items. Each character gets a description, a well-written synopsis of all their appearances in the series, and page references to those appearances, which may or may not line up with the edition you own. It is an odd thing to exist, and to have existed since the 1970s, for a work of 'literary' fiction. Invitation to the Dance as a reference book Part of the book's purpose is that, when (say) the young man with the orchid in his lapel, who appears briefly in A Buyer's Market , shows up again five books later, you can look him up in Invitation to remind yourself of his earlier appearance, and maybe go back and re-read it. But inevitably you will find yourself reading the rest of his entry, and finding out all about his subsequent appearances, which will rather diminish the effect of seeing them unfold over the next three books. This book is, in short, full of spoilers. For its intended purpose, it might work better as a web site, where you could tell the site what you're up to in the series, and it would reveal information only up to that page. But they didn't have web sites when this was published in 1976. When I read the entries for Mr and Mrs Maclintick, and learned the conclusion of Casanova's Chinese Restaurant , which I had just started reading, I finally forced myself to put Invitation down and stop spoiling the series. I was not always successful. Invitation to the Dance as a book read cover to cover Late in A Dance to the Music of Time, I began to think it would be fun to start reading it again when I finished, so I could see all the ingenious foreshadowings that only become apparent when you've read the thing that was being foreshadowed. But my to-read pile is about to collapse into a gravitational singularity, and I'd begun to crave something completely different in my reading life. So as a compromise I read Invitation to the Dance cover to cover. (Is it redundant to say I read a book 'cover to cover'? Not, I think, when it is intended to be a reference book and is probably seldom read all the way through.) The great value of the book is that character arcs eked out over thousands of pages of the Dance are delivered by Invitation all in one hit. With quite a lot of detail, and some quotations, it feels a little like re-reading the series in a different order. It reveals much that I hadn't noticed. To choose a random example from late in the book, that events in Hearing Secret Harmonies are foreshadowed by the print on Widmerpool's wall when Nick dines with him and his mother in A Buyer's Market more than 40 years earlier, something that Nick couldn't (and Anthony Powell probably didn't) know when writing that earlier book. Another neat thing I hadn't realised was that, in addition to giving you an update on all the major characters, Hearing Secret Harmonies also revisits many of the artworks Nick saw during the series. One more thing: the word 'affair' seems to have a different meaning for the author than it does for me, for it is used frequently in contexts that made me think, 'You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.' Would I recommend the book? It's hard to say. If you use it for its intended purpose, and do not possess superhuman self-discipline, the risk of spoilage is great. On the other hand, not many people are likely to want to read it cover to cover as I did. And while it enhanced my appreciation of Dance, I've been pretty desperate to start reading something new since finishing the series. So I think the ideal audience for this book is someone reading Dance for the second time, who has no need to fear spoilers and can thus fully enjoy the insights available here.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kirsten

    A bit disappointing, I thought there would be more analysis......:-(

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sammy

    Such fun! And what a cute edition, with its play on the classic paperback caricature illustrations and a pile of the rainbow-covered 12 editions of the Dance. Now that I'm 7/12ths of the way through Powell's masterwork, I have started dipping into Spurling's dance - cautiously, I might add, since it is by design full of spoilers! Powell himself asking Spurling, then a young biographer, to write this, and she has since commented that it felt like taking an engine apart and ending up covered in gre Such fun! And what a cute edition, with its play on the classic paperback caricature illustrations and a pile of the rainbow-covered 12 editions of the Dance. Now that I'm 7/12ths of the way through Powell's masterwork, I have started dipping into Spurling's dance - cautiously, I might add, since it is by design full of spoilers! Powell himself asking Spurling, then a young biographer, to write this, and she has since commented that it felt like taking an engine apart and ending up covered in grease. This is truly an indispensable guide. Powell's 12 books are not so much a series as one novel split into two parts. Spurling exhaustively chronicles characters (real and fictional, appearing and mentioned) along with artists and places that recur through the work. The biographies are concise but effective, and include page references for all appearances of each character (with the exception of Jenkins, of course!) Concluding with a short but effective synopsis of each of the 12 novels alongside a chronology. 45 years after its publication, Spurling's Invitation is still regularly consulted by fans of Powell. And, boy, have I come to understand why. With each passing volume, the complexity of character and circumstance deepens. Who is anyone - Jean Templer, Kenneth Widmerpool, Molly Andriadis - really? We see characters from Nick's point of view, we hear about them from many others, and we reflect on conversations and engagements we experienced years ago. The Dance will reward endless rereading, and I'm comforted that Spurling will be there to accompany me. A genuinely useful companion to the Dance.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Chris Lilly

    Useful adjunct to a reading of the twelve-volume novel sequence. Buying an e-book was stupid, there's no indexing, looking up any particular character or place is guesswork or a tedious process of leafing through, which is also hard to do on an e-book. Carrying around twelve books, though, is easier with an e reader than with a stack of paperbacks. Useful adjunct to a reading of the twelve-volume novel sequence. Buying an e-book was stupid, there's no indexing, looking up any particular character or place is guesswork or a tedious process of leafing through, which is also hard to do on an e-book. Carrying around twelve books, though, is easier with an e reader than with a stack of paperbacks.

  7. 5 out of 5

    carl theaker

    Don't go Dancing without it. A great aid when reading 'A Dance to the Music of Time'. Comes in handy when reading the 12 volumes covering 400-500 characters and 50 years. Has as index of characters, summary of the books, some witty asides. Was out of print for a long time, now available again. Don't go Dancing without it. A great aid when reading 'A Dance to the Music of Time'. Comes in handy when reading the 12 volumes covering 400-500 characters and 50 years. Has as index of characters, summary of the books, some witty asides. Was out of print for a long time, now available again.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Howells

    I haven't read it as such but it's been by my side as I've read the Four Volumes of A Dance To The Music of Time'. It's a reference book of people & places that the novels cover....and the novels cover a hell of a lot of people & places. I haven't read it as such but it's been by my side as I've read the Four Volumes of A Dance To The Music of Time'. It's a reference book of people & places that the novels cover....and the novels cover a hell of a lot of people & places.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Linera

    Essential for making it through all twelve volumes of Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time. I'm only in the first book, and already I have had to look up a character in Spurling's guide. Essential for making it through all twelve volumes of Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time. I'm only in the first book, and already I have had to look up a character in Spurling's guide.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sophia Roberts

    A very useful handbook. I'm glad I had it to hand whilst reading what is rightly called a 'masterpiece'. A very useful handbook. I'm glad I had it to hand whilst reading what is rightly called a 'masterpiece'.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    'Invitation To The Dance' by Hilary Spurling is an essential companion to Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time - the 12-volume masterpiece which captures England’s 20th century cultural landscape. It's also a beautiful looking book too, with an endorsement from Anthony Powell on the cover. 'Invitation To The Dance' is a magnificent and indispensable reference book for reminding yourself who is who within A Dance to the Music of Time. As the series chronicles over 300 characters it is a c 'Invitation To The Dance' by Hilary Spurling is an essential companion to Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time - the 12-volume masterpiece which captures England’s 20th century cultural landscape. It's also a beautiful looking book too, with an endorsement from Anthony Powell on the cover. 'Invitation To The Dance' is a magnificent and indispensable reference book for reminding yourself who is who within A Dance to the Music of Time. As the series chronicles over 300 characters it is a challenge remembering who's who. Be careful not to read each entry all the way to the end, as many contain spoilers which might impinge on your enjoyment if you refer to this book whilst midway through the series. Not only is 'Invitation To The Dance' a fantastic resource, it's also a good read in its own right. 'Invitation To The Dance' by Hilary Spurling The twelve A Dance to the Music of Time books are available individually, or as four seasonally themed compendium volumes: Spring A Question of Upbringing – (1951) A Buyer's Market – (1952) The Acceptance World – (1955) Summer At Lady Molly's – (1957) Casanova's Chinese Restaurant – (1960) The Kindly Ones – (1962) Autumn The Valley of Bones – (1964) The Soldier's Art – (1966) The Military Philosophers – (1968) Winter Books Do Furnish a Room – (1971) Temporary Kings – (1973) Hearing Secret Harmonies – (1975) (dates are first UK publication dates)

  12. 5 out of 5

    David

    For anyone negotiating Dance for the second time, it could be quite useful. Too many spoilers for a first-time reader. But for someone wanting to deepen comprehension of the completed sequence, it might be great. I also found the place index helpful when trying to maximize my Dance-related sightseeing during my sole, brief visit to London. Also excellent for those moments when one is trying to locate a specific moment—related to character, painting, or literature—in that it is thoroughly cross-r For anyone negotiating Dance for the second time, it could be quite useful. Too many spoilers for a first-time reader. But for someone wanting to deepen comprehension of the completed sequence, it might be great. I also found the place index helpful when trying to maximize my Dance-related sightseeing during my sole, brief visit to London. Also excellent for those moments when one is trying to locate a specific moment—related to character, painting, or literature—in that it is thoroughly cross-referenced across the whole 12- volume sequence, with page references given in detail.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    This isn't a book you read cover to cover: I'm using it as an indispensable handbook and guide to my ongoing 2019 project of reading A Dance To The Music Of Time, month by month. Here you'll find a glossary of the hundreds of characters and places in the series, as well as summaries of each book, notes on important artworks mentioned, and more. This isn't a book you read cover to cover: I'm using it as an indispensable handbook and guide to my ongoing 2019 project of reading A Dance To The Music Of Time, month by month. Here you'll find a glossary of the hundreds of characters and places in the series, as well as summaries of each book, notes on important artworks mentioned, and more.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Winterwade

    Hilary Spurling's love of Powell's magnum opus and the effort she has put in to this handy and autonomously satisfying volume is clear to see. Not only a very useful handbook for those who wish to locate a character point or jog their memory regarding a particular volume, the slight wryness with which certain matters are outlined makes for a lightly humorous browsing experience in itself. Hilary Spurling's love of Powell's magnum opus and the effort she has put in to this handy and autonomously satisfying volume is clear to see. Not only a very useful handbook for those who wish to locate a character point or jog their memory regarding a particular volume, the slight wryness with which certain matters are outlined makes for a lightly humorous browsing experience in itself.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Joe

  16. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Darling

  17. 5 out of 5

    Pauline Hoare

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ian

  19. 5 out of 5

    Alexander

  20. 4 out of 5

    Babybelle

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joy

  22. 4 out of 5

    John Silbersack

  23. 4 out of 5

    Edward Waverley

  24. 4 out of 5

    Charles Herrick

  25. 4 out of 5

    Gail

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

  27. 4 out of 5

    Contrarywise

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tom

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  30. 5 out of 5

    Amber

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