Monday, June 06, 2005

time flies like a banana

This week in the world of this pig:

I am knitting Very Cherry. I bought some gorgeous chunky purple wool on Saturday and started knitting as soon as I got home. Trouble is, with chunky wool and thick needles, it's growing very fast. So soon I'll have a new top :-) but nothing to knit :-(. HP is also without a knitting project (although she should be revising) so we may be working together on something more experimental.

I have finished reading A Dance to the Music of Time, Anthony Powell's twelve novel sequence following the lives of a huge and interconnected set of characters. It starts somewhere in the 1920s and ends in the late 1960s, with occasional flashbacks to the childhood of the narrator, Nick Jenkins. I read it for the first time after seeing the TV version and my mental pictures of the characters are still influenced by their TV portrayals, especially Simon Russell-Beale as the monstrous Widmerpool. You could see the books as a sort of index by which to measure the progress of your life, in which case I'm somewhere between A Buyer's Market and The Acceptance World (Books 2 and 3). On the other hand, the books are rooted in specific times and settings, particularly books 7-9, which deal with the Second World War. These are probably the best of the sequence and are self-contained enough to be read without reading the preceding books. The war seems to happen offstage, as Jenkins spends his time first with a Welsh regiment, then working for Widmerpool and later in Allied Liaison in London.

The thing that did annoy me was the way in which the narrator knows EVERYBODY. Obviously, the novels wouldn't work without this. Characters recur in different situations, marry, divorce, change allegiances and jobs and by the end it becomes inevitable that wherever Jenkins goes, he will run into old friends, lovers and enemies, and that anyone he meets will confide in him secrets about everyone else. At least there are no Dickensian tyings together of all the plot strands into one tidy package, although with a few hundred characters, this would be a feat of literary engineering.

The good thing about reading a novel sequence is that for a few weeks deciding which book to read is easy. But now I've finished. So what next?

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