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This report is taken from PN Review 51, Volume 13 Number 1, September - October 1986.

Letter from New York J.D. McClatchy
'Where do I find all the time for not reading so many books?' asked Karl Kraus. I used to save all the year's novels until summer to read. Then I took up gar-dening and started to scratch in a different kind of dirt. Nowadays I read novels in spurts: a sudden couple of weeks here and there. During one recent spurt, I was reading English novels. Iris Murdoch's astonishing The Good Apprentice was one, and it kept me thinking: here is a great novelist, but not a great artist. Peter Ackroyd's bravura Hawksmoor, on the other hand, is a triumph of style, a virtual cross-sectioning of genres and historical voices. I've also been re-reading Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time series. Powell seems in the midst of a recurrent revival here. His early novels are on the shelves again, and the Dance novels are being re-issued - for the fourth time - serially. Each month we wait for a new volume, as if on the Manhattan docks waiting for the next chapter of Dickens. This way of reading the novel, instead of in a thick omnibus edition, reminds one of Powell's dramatic genius. It's no wonder there is a BBC series in the works.

I asked an editor at Warner books, the publisher of the current edition, about Powell's readership. Each volume sells a steady 15,000 copies, he reported, and the firm will keep them in print for ten years. There's the makings of an underground ...


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