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1. Dawn Powell: Novels 1930-1942
2. A Time to Be Born
3. Dawn Powell: Novels 1944-1962
4. The Happy Island
5. The Locusts Have No King
6. Sunday, Monday, and Always: Stories
7. Selected Letters of Dawn Powell:
8. Four Plays by Dawn Powell
9. My Home Is Far Away: An Autobiographical
10. The Diaries of Dawn Powell: 1931-1965
11. The Wicked Pavilion
13. Selected Letters of Dawn Powell,
14. United States Authors Series:
15. Dawn Powell: A Biography
16. Dawn Powell At Her Best
17. Come Back to Sorrento
18. Dance Night
19. The Bride's House
20. Angels on Toast

1. Dawn Powell: Novels 1930-1942 (Library of America)
by Dawn Powell
Hardcover: 1068 Pages (2001-09-10)
list price: US$35.00 -- used & new: US$17.97
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1931082014
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
"Wittier than Dorothy Parker, dissects the rich better than F. Scott Fitzgerald, is more plaintive than Willa Cather in her evocation of the heartland and has a more supple control of satirical voice than Evelyn Waugh, the writer to whom she's most often compared." (Lisa Zeidner, The New York Times)

For decades after her death, Dawn Powell's work was out of print, cherished by a small band of admirers. Only recently has there been renewed awareness of the novelist who was such a vital presence in literary Greenwich Village from the 1920s to the 1960s.

Dawn Powell was the tirelessly observant chronicler of two very different worlds: the small-town Ohio of her childhood and the sophisticated Manhattan to which she gravitated. If her Ohio novels are more melancholy and compassionate in their depiction of often frustrated lives, her Manhattan novels, with their cast of writers, show people, businessmen, and hustling hangers-on, are more exuberant and incisive. But all show rich characterization and a flair for the gist of social complexities. A playful satirist, an unsentimental observer of failed hopes and misguided longings, Dawn Powell is a literary rediscovery of rare importance.

Edited by Tim Page. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars An author to meet
If you are unacquainted with Dawn Powell, as I was until just recently, this is an excellent means to begin your acquaintance, with five of her early novels arranged chronologically in one volume.Powell draws the reader along as she unwinds the thread of her narrative, slowing her pace for extended dialogue and description let her stories breath and speeding it to keep the narrative moving and reader engaged.A major benefit of having these five novels together is that the reader can trace the development of Powell's satiric style as it progresses from a spot here and there in "Dance Night" to all pervading in "Angels on Toast" and "A time to be Born".

The earlier works "Dance Night" and "Come Back to Sorrento", both of which have Midwestern small-town settings, have elements of Willa Cather, while the latter three, all New York satire, fall somewhere between Dorothy Parker and P.G. Woodhouse with punchy, sarcastic dialogue and vivid description.Like Woodhouse, Powell understands the humor of being anthropomorphic in describing inanimate objects.

The brief chronology at the end of the book, which I recommend readers unfamiliar with Powell read first, explains some of Powells returning motifs: absent parents, children farmed out to relatives, traveling salesmen, dysfunctional families and American class consciousness.She is masterful in presenting the "happily" part of the ending, but at the same time, registering misgivings about the "ever after."

"Dance Night", set in a generic Lamptown, is the story of Morry Abbot, a young man coming to maturity and sexual awareness.Powell sets this against the story of his dysfunctional parents, an absentee traveling salesman father and a mother who falls in love with the dance instructor.A whole set of fully-fleshed minor characters fill out the narrative.

In "Come Back to Sorrento", another small town narrative, Connie Benjamin's life changes when a new music teacher comes to teach at the school in Dell River.Connie, who has shown great promise as a singer, but who was restrained by her domineering grandfather who had raised her, has lived alone in her dream world for almost two decades.Professor Decker, who lives in his own artificial world, arrives and the two become fast friends.Although their pretensions, played out for before a spinster school teacher pass well into the realm of embarrassing, Powell deftly keeps them sympathetic simply by keeping the reader fully aware that these characters are lost in a world they only partly created.

Dennis Orphen, the hero of "Turn, Magic Wheel", a New York satire, has written a novelized book in which he satirizes a world-famous novelist, Andrew Callingham, having gleaned most of his information from Callingham's ex-wife, Effie.Dennis, an inveterate womanizer, has unbeknownst to himself, fallen in love with Effie and she with him.

The traveling salesman motif returns in "Angels on Toast", a story of the contrasting marital infidelities of Lou and Jay, who are continually on the road.Replete with wives, girlfriends, and at least one ex-wife, this is the fastest paced of the five novels in this volume.

"A Time to be Born", reportedly based on Clare Booth Luce, is the most complex of the five. Interspersed within the interwoven narratives of Amanda Evans and Vicky Haven are the workplace politics at Peabody Publications, the riotous family life of the McElroy's, (one of Vicky's colleague in the office) and a return of Dennis Orphen from "Turn, Magic Wheel", along with his writing and drinking buddy, Ken Saunders.Although Powell fully exploits her satiric wit in this novel, it does turn grim, especially towards the end.

These are all excellent reads and well worth the investment in this Library of America edition which has the same quality of their other publications.Library of America has also produced a second volume of Powell's works that include later novels.

5-0 out of 5 stars An American Novelist Attains Stature
Dawn Powell (1896-1965) wrote 15 novels which received little notice during her lifetime. Powell was born in rural Ohio. After college, she moved to Grenwich Village in New York City where she lived most of her life. Her novels have a strong element of autobiography. She wrote novels of her early experience in Ohio and novels of her life in New York City and often contrasted the different pacings and values of life in the Midwest and in New York.Her later books are sharply satirical and often cynical.She wrote of love and of affairs and of loss in unconventional situations.

In the 1990s, many people discovered Powell's works, sparked largely by the biography and other writings on Powell by Tim Page.In 2001, the Library of America published a two volumes of Dawn Powell, with notes by Tim Page, including 9 of her novels.The LOA is a wonderful and ambitious project which aims to capture the best in American writing, novels, poetry, history, philosophy.It is a record of American thought and of the American experience.

This volume consists of five novels that Powell wrote between 1930 and 1952.The first two books center upon life in the Midwest while the latter three books are satires of urban life.

The first novel in the book, Dance Night (1930), was Powell's fourth published novel and her own favorite of her works.It is a coming-of-age novel set in a town called Lamptown, Ohio.It deals with the restlessness of adolescence in a small town and with sexual frustration. The book points the way for its hero to leave Lamptown on a train bound, presumably, to seek his chance in New York City.

"Come Back to Sorrento", Powell's next novel was written in 1932 and sold very poorly.But the novel is a gem.It is set in a small midwestern town and its two main characters are a woman, trapped in an unhappy marriage who had dreamed in her youth of becoming a singer, and the town music teacher who had aspired to become a concert pianist and who is likely homosexual. The book is on the whole subdued and understated and centers upon the frustrating relationship between the two protagonists.

The next book in the collection, "Turn, Magic Wheel" (1936), is the first of Powell's novels satirizing life in New York City.Its characters are a young man who has published one successful novel lampooning a literary idol of the day, the literary idol himself, (modelled on Earnest Hemingway), and the women who are involved with both of them.There are great descriptions of the streets, bars and sites of New York City.The story is sharply, but compassionately, told.The book, I think, is ultimately a love story with an ambiguous message about the possiblity of happiness.

"Angels on Toast" (1940) is a satire of the world of business with its two main characters commuting by train from Chicago to New York City in search of money and mistresses.It is sharp and engaging, if one-dimensional.I don't think it as good as the other four novels in this volume.

The final work in this collection, "A Time to be Born" (1942) was one of Powell's few novels to achieve commercial success during her lifetime.One of the main characters in this book is modelled in part on Clare Boothe Luce.In this book, Powell juxtaposes life in midwest Ohio with life in New York City.The two major women characters in the book move to New York from the same small town in Ohio with very different results. This book is satirical but it is also -- actually primarily -- a coming-of-age novel for its young woman heroine.It gives an unforgettable picture of life in New York City just at the eve of United States entry into WW II.

Powell is best known as a satirist, but the books in this series show she was that and more.Her themes as a novelist are somewhat limited, but they are developed well and embroidered in each successive work.Her writing style develops with time until in her final novels (the second volume of the series) it becomes beautiful.She offers a vision of New York City and of the loss of innocence that is her own. The Library of America series is to be commended for finding writers describing American experience in somewhat unexpected places.Powell deserves her place in this series and in American literature.This volume will give the reader a good exposure to the work of Dawn Powell.

5-0 out of 5 stars Satiric, witty, sharply written and observant fiction
An author of immense popularity, Dawn Powell (1896-1965) wrote satiric, witty, sharply written and observant fiction that went out of print following her death. Then in the early 1990s a renewed awareness of this major literary figure saw the reissuing of her work, only to have it fall back into obscurity once again. Now The Library Of America has brought her work back into print again and in a format that will insure that her fiction will continue to be available to both scholarship and the general reading public for decades to come. Volume 1: Novels 1930-1942 includes Dance Night; Come Back to Sorrento; Turn, Magic Wheel; Angels on Toast; and A Time To be Born. Volume 2: Novels 1944-1962 features My Home Is Far Away; The Locusts Have No King; The Wicked Pavilion; and The Golden Spur. Dawn Powell: Volumes 1 & 2 is a very highly recommended addition to both academic and community library literary fiction collections. ... Read more

2. A Time to Be Born
by Dawn Powell
Paperback: 327 Pages (1996-07-02)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$4.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1883642418
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
Set against a marvelously atmospheric backdrop of the city in the months just before America's entry into World War II, Powell here offers a scathing and hilarious study of cynical New Yorkers stalking each other for selfish ends. At the center of the story are a wealthy, self-involved newspaper publisher and his scheming, novelist wife. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (14)

3-0 out of 5 stars Middling Powell Novel
Powell has written some superb novels, the best of which combined astute insights about human behavior with sharp satire.She has experimented with a variety of novelistic structures, and in this one uses the soap opera of 40s studio films.While she gets in some keen insights, Born's soap plotline gets mired in lurid developments that drown the character development and the humor.

This middle entry in her NY cycle of novels falls, skill-wise, somewhere between her creaky last novel, The Golden Spur, and her first NY entry, Turn Magic Wheel. Which is to say, it is plotted more than a typical Powell novel, but not up to her best writing standards.She sets her sights on a potent target, Clare Booth Luce before she became conservative anti-Communist congresswoman and ambassadress to Italy, as well as her Svengali, Time-Life owner Henry Luce.There is ample fodder in this set-up, perhaps too much. For readers seeking a good heavily plotted Powell novel, try Turn Magic Wheel, while those looking for her mastery with insight-drenched prose, there are her masterworks, The Locusts Have No King and Wicked Pavilion.

5-0 out of 5 stars best little known author i've come across.
i am neither smart enough, nor do i have the time to write some long impressive essay on this book (like the other amazon reviewers have done here), but i absolutely want to give this fantastic book another 5 star vote to its total. after reading this I purchased every book that i could with the name Dawn Powell on it. she is simply a wonder to her craft. great writing combined with winning storytelling made this entire book a joy to read. fans of P.G. Wodehouse should love Dawn Powell, though she is much tougher minded, with a strong satiric bite to her tone that is mild, by comparison, in Wodehouse. I highly, highly recommend this book to lovers of literature.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Clarifying Lens of Satire
Gore Vidal, admired and respected Dawn Powell and wrote a long article called,"Dawn Powell, The American Writer". Here he explains her writing "The novels of Dawn Powell have no truck with hypocrisies. She does not judge, excuse or sentimentalize, viewing her characters with a fine indifference to their manifold failings. Her almost Flaubertian aesthetic morality was often misread as sour detachment, but it was anything but. As she noted in her diary, "The satirist who really loves people loves them so well the way they are that he sees no need to disguise their characteristics -- he loves the whole, without retouching. Yet the word used for this unqualifying affection is 'cynicism. To feel, really feel, the heartbreak of an objectively contemptible character is an exquisitely mixed literary experience." For his part, Gore Vidal offered a simple reason for Powell's sudden popularity: "We are catching up to her."

Dawn Powell came to New York City from Ohio.Many of her characters also were transplanted Midwesterners in the big city. The characters she writes about with her perfect economy, the writers and gallery owners, the publishers and businessmen juggling their mistresses, the gold diggers and sexual misfits and those that just slum, she offers no judgment about but is amused by their actions. We are all wise about these people, we see that virtue goes unrewarded and that luck smiles and frowns. However, her characters are rarely wise about themselves.We see through these people but at the same time understand their actions, they are not unworthy.Lisa Zeidner, writing in The New York Times Book Review,tells us Powell "is wittier than Dorothy Parker, dissects the rich better than F. Scott Fitzgerald, is more plaintive than Willa Cather in her evocation of the heartland, and has a more supple control of satirical voice than Evelyn Waugh." Ernest Hemingway called her his "favorite living writer." She was one of America's great novelists, and yet when she died in 1965 she was buried in an unmarked grave in New York's Potter's Field.It has only been recently that Dawn Powell's legacy has come to fruition. Her satire is perfect and biting and humorous.

"A Time To Be Born" is a study of cynical new Yorkers stalking each other. The story centers around a wealthy, self involved publisher, Julian Evans and his novelist wife, Amanda Keeler. Amanda Keeler has always been thought to be based on real life Clare Boothe Luce, who married HenryR Luce, cofounder of "Time" magazine.Her character isa monster of sexualdeception, and aliar and user, yet we seem to agree that her actions are understandable. Dawn Powell always denied that Amanda Keeler was based upon the real-life Clare Boothe Luce, until years later when she discovered a memo she'd written to herself in 1939 that said, "Why not do a novel on Clare Luce?" Which prompted Powell to write in her diary "Who can I believe? Me or myself?"WhenVicky Haven shows up in NYC from Ohio, Amanda assists her with a flat that Amanda uses as her love hideaway.Vicky falls in love with Amanda's lover, and thusall these characters in pre-war America 1942, are in "for a bumpy ride". We feel the heartbreak of all of these charactersand that keeps us off-stride. A fast paced and literary novel, the like of which I have not read in a long time.Dawn Powell has written twelve novels, and I am set to read them all . She is an extraordinary satirical novelist and one to be admired.As she aptly states:

"Satire is people as they are; romanticism, people as they would like to be; realism, people as they seem with their insides left out." --Dawn Powell

Highly Recommended. prisrob 5-27-06

5-0 out of 5 stars A Time for Dawn Powell to be RE-Born -- Check This Out!
Dawn Powell, Ohioan by birth, sophisticated Manhattanite by choice, is one of America's biggest cultural hang-fires.This unfortunately still-too-little known writer who died in 1962 deserves a far wider audience; pity that the publishing of most of her novels in a two-volume set by the Library of America in 2001 didn't put her in the cultural Panetheon where she belongs.

"A Time to be Born" is a good starter piece.Powell's novels tend to break into two camps--sentimental and sharp--and this 1941 novel, set among Manhattan's cultural elite just before World War II broke out in 1939--is a great introduction to the latter, more satirical work.

The core of the plot deals with the curious relationship between two women who grew up in the same fictional Ohio small town.Amanda Keeler Evans is a thinly disguised version of Clare Booth Luce (she who married TIME magazine's publisher and quickly became a nationally known journalist, not to be confused with Claire Luce, author of the bee-witchy movie classic THE WOMEN).Amanda is more than happy to let her provincial Midwestern past lie in the past but, though a mutual hometown acquaintance, plays Lady Bountiful to her naive high-school acquaintance Vicky Haven, who is about to move to the Big Apple.

Amanda secures Vicky an entry-level job at a publishing house with her big-time bullying and clout.Although she and Vicky are definitely not of the same social set, she wants to keep Vicky close--we suspect that in her cynicism Amanda is so nice to Vicky as a matter of spin control; she doesn't want Vicky blabbing too intimately about their hick background.

Well, it couldn't happen to a nicer bully:Amanda's every good deed never goes unpunished.Amanda, on the sly, rents a studio apartment for a trysting place with her twentysomething lover, but tries to justify this pied-a-terre to her vapid husband by saying she rented it for Vicky so that her pseudo-protegee could have a ready-made place to hang her hat upon arrival in the Big City--while Amanda cunningly retains daytime-hours occupancy privilege for her "work."

During a routine dinner party, to which Vicky has been invited as a matter of protocol, Vicky meets Amanda's lover (not knowing he is anything other than a professional contact); and eventually, to save her hide, Amanda is forced to offer Vicky the flat for real while keeping her right to its daytime use.

When boyfriend drops by the flat Amanda rented for Vicky, Vicky wonders why he's so familiar with the place and assumes all Manhattan studio apartments follow a common scheme . . .

Dawn Powell is truly an American original but a few comparative metaphors won't hurt.Think of her as a midcentury Jane Austen with a sharp, Dorothy Parkerish writing style and an appalling, almost Evelyn Waugh-type perspective on human greed and folly.

All this makes A TIME TO BE BORN first-rate social comedy (not just routine satire), a great view into the protocol of that era's Manhattan networking professional life; and a darn good farce where almost everyone except clueless Vicky is living a lie and struggling to maintain it all despite the inevitable cognitive dissonance.

I strongly recommend this book--and if it isn't available by itself, the first volume of Powell's novels as collected by the Library of America contains it and four other gems.

For further background on Powell, look up a feature piece in the September 2001 Atlantic concurrent with the Library of America's publication of the two-work set.


5-0 out of 5 stars A New Life
This magical novel was published in 1942.Unlike most of Dawn Powell's earlier novels, it sold well and went through several printings.Although Powell denied it, one of the major characters of the book, Amanda Keeler Evans, is based in part on and satirizes Claie Boothe Luce.

These external details say little about the appeal of this novel.
As with most of Dawn Powell's books, "A Time to be Born" talks about New York City and its effect on young men and women who meet their chances there from small towns in the Midwest.The book's two main characters, Amanda Keeler Evans and Vickie Haven, come to New York City under different circumstances and with different results after being girlhood friends in the town of Lakeville, Ohio.

On the verge of WW II, Amanda has become a success by publishing a schmaltzy romantic novel and hobnobbing with the powerful under the guidance of her husband, Julian, a newspaper magnate.Amanda has married her way to success with Julian but with success will not touch much less sleep with him.

Vicky Haven comes to New York at the peak of Amanda's success to escape the memory of a failed affair in which she has lost
her love to her business partner.She is put up, begrudgingly, by Amanda who uses her pad to entertain the lover, Ken Sanders, that she jilted to marry Julian.Amanda takes the fancy pad for Vicky to have an excuse to have an affair with Ken on the side.

The climax of the book occurs when Vicky decides to leave Amanda's fancy pad and lease an apartment of her own.No luxury this.It is a cold-water flat on the fourth floor of a dilapated building surrounded by warehouses and with a pet shop on the lower floor.But it is Vicky's and it is where her life begins.Powell writes:"She only wanted to be alone with her new house so definitely hers, because nobody, Amanda, Ethel, brother Ted, Eudora Brown, Ethel Carey, nobody would ever have selected it for her, and so it was the beginning of her own life."There is magic here, in life beginning anew, with self-affirmation and choice, even if, and especially if in Powell, the outcome is uncertain and the scene itself is partially ironic.

In addition to the theme of having one's own start at life, the book paints a memorable picture of New York on the eve of WW II.The book juxtaposes the lives of the rich, famous and powerful -- their self-importance, their officiousness, their concern for the weighty matters of peace and war -- with the lives of the "little people" who, as Powell describes them, "can only think that they are hungry, they haven't eaten, they have no money, the have lost their babies, their loves, their homes, and their sons mock them from prisons and insane asylums, so that rain or sun or snow or battles cannot stir their selfish personal absorption.".The little people have little to do with the fate of nations.Specifically in the book, Vicky is concerned not with affairs of state or with the rich and famous.She is concerned with love -- with the love she lost in Lakeville -- and with finding herself and a new love in New York City.

The characters in the book are masterfully drawn from Amanda and Vicky to many of the secondary characters such as Amanda's assistant Bemel and vicky's elderly would-be lover Rockman.New York City is depicted memorably, as elsewhere in Dawn Powell's writings.In this book, the best depictions are those of the cold water flats of Grenwich Village -- of the place that Vicky finally finds to try to find a life.

As with most of Powell's novels, this book is a satire.But in this book it is more delicate, more tinged with understanding and compassion, than is the case in some of her novels.The feelings that the book brings for its characters is the source of its magic.There is a sense of foreboding and irony in the book, but little cynicism and anger.The book occupies that fragile point at which a person is able to act on her ideals and attempt to find a life for herself -- without moving into the line that determines whether or not the effort will end in success or failure.

This is a wonderful, little-known American novel. ... Read more

3. Dawn Powell: Novels 1944-1962 (Library of America)
by Dawn Powell
Hardcover: 969 Pages (2001-09-10)
list price: US$35.00 -- used & new: US$18.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1931082022
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
"Wittier than Dorothy Parker, dissects the rich better than F. Scott Fitzgerald, is more plaintive than Willa Cather in her evocation of the heartland and has a more supple control of satirical voice than Evelyn Waugh, the writer to whom she's most often compared." (Lisa Zeidner, The New York Times)

For decades after her death, Dawn Powell's work was out of print, cherished by a small band of admirers. Only recently has there been renewed awareness of the novelist who was such a vital presence in literary Greenwich Village from the 1920s to the 1960s.

Dawn Powell was the tirelessly observant chronicler of two very different worlds: the small-town Ohio of her childhood and the sophisticated Manhattan to which she gravitated. If her Ohio novels are more melancholy and compassionate in their depiction of often-frustrated lives, her Manhattan novels, with their cast of writers, show people, businessmen, and hustling hangers-on, are more exuberant and incisive. But all show rich characterization and a flair for the gist of social complexities. A playful satirist, an unsentimental observer of failed hopes and misguided longings, Dawn Powell is a literary rediscovery of rare importance.

Edited by Tim Page. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars Thanks Gore Vidal
Bought this book after reading an essay about Dawn Powell by Gore Vidal, and have been enjoying reading her late novels a great deal.

5-0 out of 5 stars An American Novelist Attains Stature (II)
This book is the second volume of the Library of America's compilation of the novels of Dawn Powell (1896 - 1965), a writer whose works have attained deserved if belated recognition.The first volume included five novels of Dawn Powell written between 1930 and 1942.This, the second, volume includes four of Powell's novels written between 1944 and 1965.

Powell's earlier novels generally are set in small-town Ohio in the early 20th Century.They have as themes what Powell saw as the conformity and frustration, sexual and otherwise, of small-town life.The main characters in these books, typically young people, long to escape to make a new life for themselves in the city.The latter novels are, for the most part, set in New York City where Powell lived most of her adult life.The novels are comic and satirical, sometimes sharply so.They reflect loss of innocence and love and, on occasion, fall into cynicism.

The first volume of the Library of America compilation included two early Ohio novels,"Dance Night' and "Come Back to Sorrento" and three novels reflecting Powell's change in style and theme and set in New York City, "Turn, Magic Wheel', "Angels on Toast", and "A Time to be Born."

The second volume opens with a novel in which Dawn Powell returned to the setting of small-town Ohio.The book, "My Home is Far Away" (1944), is a fictionalized account of Powell's early unhappy childhood.The book offers a poignant picture of the death of Powell's mother and of her father's remarriage to a cruel and jealous stepmother. There are excellent scenes of the family wandering through cramped Ohio towns and small dusty hotels and back neighborhoods. The father himself is portrayed as a travelling salesman who generally behaves carelessly and irresponsibly to his three daughters. Powell initially planned this book as the first of a trilogy.This project did not materialze.

In the next book in the collection, "The Locusts have no King"(1948),Powell returned to sharp satire and to New York City.The book is set after the conclusion of WW II and includes a memorable passage of reflection at the end on the United States atomic testing program at Bikini Atoll.The book contrasts the life of serious, scholarly writing and its difficulty with the life of superficial magazine publishing devoted to economic success and to popular culture.There is also a love story, serious to the participants, in which the main character of the book, a serious if unsuccessful scholar, becomes infatuated with a shallow, sexy blonde.This book reminded me of George Gissing's Victorian novel of the literary life, "New Grub Street" as well as of West's "Day of the Locust", which has some of the same themes and the same dark humor as does Powell's book.

Powell wrote "The Wicked Pavilion" in 1954.Unlike most of Powell's works, the book appeared on the best-seller lists for a very brief time.The book is set in New York City in the late 1940s and celebrates, if that is the word, a bar called "The Cafe Julien", located in Grenwich Village,and its patrons. The book is full of would-be artists without talent, unhappy lovers, and people on the lookout for the main chance.It is sharp, astringent satire very close to disillusion.The book is well and convincingly written.

Powell's final novel, and the last in this collection, "The Golden Spur" (1962) was nominated for the National Book Award.As does its predecessor, this novel centers around a drinking establishment which gives the book its title and its patrons.This book also is set in Grenwich Village in the 1950's and records novelistically the passing of an era.This novel, as are some of Powell's earlier works, is a coming-of-age story which tells the story of a young man who comes to New York City from Ohio to learn the identity of his father.In the process, the young man learns about himself as well.This book is impressive less for its story line than for the beautiful writing style Powell achieved in this, her last novel.The book is deliberately light in tone, and I think it ranks with Powell's best.

Dawn Powell produced a substantial body of excellent work describing the places and lives (primarily her own) with which she was familiar.The qualities of growing up, coming-of age, searching and frustration, and the loss of innocence are all well portrayed.The descriptions of New York City, in particular, are themselves irreplaceable.Those readers who enjoy the pleasure of discovering a previously little-known writer will enjoy the novels of Dawn Powell.

4-0 out of 5 stars A great find!
I jut read Wicked Pavilion and found it to be so very, very well written, funny, ironic and poignant. She is really a master and a great revealer of a certain part of American life that is hardly ever heard from - postwar NY artists & socialites. Wow! I love Dawn Powell and intend to read all her works.

5-0 out of 5 stars Satiric, witty, sharply written and observant fiction
An author of immense popularity, Dawn Powell (1896-1965) wrote satiric, witty, sharply written and observant fiction that went out of print following her death. Then in the early 1990s a renewed awareness of this major literary figure saw the reissuing of her work, only to have it fall back into obscurity once again. Now The Library Of America has brought her work back into print again and in a format that will insure that her fiction will continue to be available to both scholarship and the general reading public for decades to come. Volume 1: Novels 1930-1942 includes Dance Night; Come Back to Sorrento; Turn, Magic Wheel; Angels on Toast; and A Time To be Born. Volume 2: Novels 1944-1962 features My Home Is Far Away; The Locusts Have No King; The Wicked Pavilion; and The Golden Spur. Dawn Powell: Volumes 1 & 2 is a very highly recommended addition to both academic and community library literary fiction collections. ... Read more

4. The Happy Island
by Dawn Powell
Paperback: 275 Pages (1998-08-01)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$18.48
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1883642795
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
IN THIS ACIDIC, provocative, and–for its time–daring novel, Dawn Powell set out to write the story of "the bachelors of New York in the Satyricon style." The time is the late 1930s, and the young taciturn playwright, Jefferson Abbott, arrives in New York by bus from Silver City, Ohio and looks up his childhood sweetheart, Prudence Bly, who has since become a celebrated nightclub singer. When his play flops, the upright and uptight Abbott is undaunted, eventually returning to Ohio and persuading Prudence to join him there to take up a life of drudgery as mate to this always self-serious artist. Prudence, needless to say, finally escapes back to the city and her circle of friends, the disparate characters who give the book its true texture and, wrote one reviewer at the time, "are involved in such a series of promiscuities, adulteries, double-crossings, neo-perversions and Krafft-Ebbing exercises as would make the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah seem like mere suburbs of li’l old New York."
The Happy Island has had its admirers over the years (Gore Vidal called this one of his favorite Powell novels), and to be found here are surely some of Powell’s most biting one-liners. But the book may not be for every taste, and the succinct notice that appeared in The New Yorker upon first publication might stand as a warning to some readers: "Night-club life of New York. Plenty of heavy drinking, perfumed love affairs, and in general the doings of a pretty worthless and ornery lot of people. Miss Powell serves it up with a dash of wit and for good measure throws in a couple of boys named Bert and Willy, who nearly steal the show from the main characters." ... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

2-0 out of 5 stars Finding her voice
This early Powell satire reveals the author honing her skills for witty dialogue but not yet a talent for character or plot, as she would in later novels like The Locusts Have No King.Island stumbles along with a wide cast of persons loosely connected in separate set pieces that are not as integrated as Locusts' set pieces.The novel eventually settles in the last third on the lounge singer and the bitter playwright as "protagonists" and gives their lives some trajectories.Meanwhile, these and the myriad other thinly-drawn caricatures spew witticisms that reveal that their contempt for each other is exceeded only by the authors' contempt for them.The characters careen from unhappiness to unhappiness, dissatisfied with the companions they insist on keeping, with being alone, with alternative activities they contemplate when sobriety threatens to dawn on them.The book mistakes contemptuousness for sardonic depth.An unsatisfying read that the author herself placed low in her body of work, Island has little of the human insight and novelistic skill her later works contained.Probably suitable only for hardcore Powell fans.

5-0 out of 5 stars Fresh and Witty
Resoundingly fresh despite its age; this story of New York's fast set is less a tale of the eraof Dawn Powell and her circle than of modernity. These characters are no more dated than Warhol, Jackie O or current cast of post modern successors. Powell includes with a frank and unapologetic intimacy characters and relationships that are straight, homosexual, freakishly over and under-sexed, effette, misers- that is desperate, complicated and flawed people in a mix of transplants and liars.There are no true heroes here, and the louts can become the worshipped with as much predictability as the inevitable pace to the grave.Prudence Bly is a self-made, hard drinking, no talent beauty whose last desperate plea for a soul becomes a renunciation of all her success and stature for a subordinated relationship with a brutally anti-New York playwright, an egoist himself, but of the country-is purer variety.
Prudence, like Powell, one suspects, was not blind to the limitations of her future and her own aged and unheralded part in it, but it is her humor and her going along for the fun, that renders her a well-developed, vulnerable and ob so modern, heroine. This book is one of my favorites in the Powell repetoire- I rate it more highly than other reviewers.Its real, informed and ageless.

4-0 out of 5 stars Mid-America Meets the Wicked City
The novels of Dawn Powell (1896-1965)have an autobigraphical tone.Powell grew up in Mt. Gilead, Ohio, but left this small midwestern town to seek her career in New York City.She wrote "The Wicked City" in 1938, and the novel captures both the allure and the disappointment of fast-paced sophisticated New York.Although the satire is sharp and biting, Powell shows considerable ambivalence for both the small town she left and the cosmopolitanism she adopted.

"The Happy Island" opens with its protagonist, Jefferson Abbott, arriving in the New York City bus terminal from Silver City, Ohio to make his career as a budding playwright.Jefferson is serious, stodgy in character and is taken aback by what he sees as the frivolity and shallowness of the New York cultural and entertainment community on which he hopes to make his mark.In New York, he meets another transplant from Silver City and an old flame, Prudence Bly.Prudence has survived the and mastered New York show business to a degree.She is a successful nightclub singer with many contacts.As adolescents in Silver City, (16 years before the story begins) Jefferson and Prudence had a teenage romance.When the pair was caught necking behind the railroad, Prudence received the sobriquet "Tracks" from the mocking young men of Silver City.In New York, Jefferson remains attracted to Prudence but dismayed by the life she is leading as a nightclub singer and socialite.

The plot of "The Happy Island" centers around the relationship between Jefferson and Prudence and in the contrast between New York City, New York and Silver City, Ohio.But as elsewhere in Powell, the plot of the book is the least of its attractions.The value of the book lies in its depiction of the places and people of New York City, in Powell's writing style, and in her sharp, caustic one-liners.There is an underlying sense of morality lost.

The book features a plethora of characters from the New York entertainment and literary scene.In particular, this book is somewhat unusual because several of the characters in the book are gay or bisexual, and Powell presents these characters without any particular moralizing.The moral tone of the book, though, is sharp and critical.In general, the characters in the book exhibit the morals of the barnyard.Infidelity, promiscuity, and double-crossing are the rules of the day.Together with the sexual double and triple dealing, Powell emphasizes parties and alcohol.She is good at describing party scenes and even better at emphasizing the dependence of her characters on booze.One can sympathize with some of Jefferson Abbott's reaction to this environment.

With all its sharpness, irony and satire, New York City is presented with a certain magic and allure.It is the dream of a new life and of opportunity, for Powell and for many others.Inflated hopes and ideals too often lead to cynicism, as I think this book and other books by Powell suggest.In the introduction to this book, Tim Page concludes that "The Happy Island" is a relatively minor novel of Dawn Powell.That may be, but there is still much in the book to reward the reader.

5-0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, WittyDescription of the Other New York
For every person who comes to New York from a small town or suburb and makes it in their chosen profession, there are a thousand others who don't.What happens to them?What are they like?Dawn Powell describes them all.This book is a wonderful literary read and a fine corrective to the notion that every transplanted provincial is either interesting or deserving of sympathy.Powell's characters are wonderfully drawn and fleshed out with fine prose: here's the business wife "bragging in a dozen beds of her perhaps old-fashioned chastity."Here's the "new society reporter from the largest and worst newspaper in New York."Here's a young playwrite freshly arrived from the sticks mortifying a seedy arty-professional crowd and their "shrill insistence on fun" by exclaiming, "New York, eh?What a dump!"And her is the (not so) young kept woman who "with considerable care placed her head in her hands as if it were a very fine melon."Powell is a treat; there are memorable lines on every page.Her novels came out between the 30's and the 60's and all the New York books are very fine, literary reads.She is considerably more on the mark in terms of wit and irony and quality of prose than her well-meaning editor, Tim Page (actually a music reviwer by profession) seems to realize, and in satire can hold her own with Saul Bellow, Gore Vidal, Sinclair Lewis, Joan Didion, etc.Check out Vidal's essays on her (they're much better, less aenemic, than Page's comments, I felt, after reading her books). Angels On Toast, The Wicked Pavillion, The Golden Spur, The Locusts Have No King, And A Time to Be Born are all also very fine, sharp witty novels of New York; both its fascinating side and in all the balderdash of its aspiring provincials.

4-0 out of 5 stars Witty satire on Cafe Society
This novel captures the time when CAfe Society ruled the Greenwich Village scene. Ms Powell captures the nuances and slang of that time marvelously. As always, her wit and style shine through every sentence. ... Read more

5. The Locusts Have No King
by Dawn Powell
Paperback: 286 Pages (1998-06-01)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$7.98
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Asin: 1883642426
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

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No one has satirized New York society quite like Dawn Powell. In this classic novel, she turns her sharp eye and stinging wit on the publishing industry. "(Powell) identifies every sort of publishing type with the patience of a pathologist removing organs for inspection."--Joseph Ferrandino, San Francisco Review of Books. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars Overlooked gem
This novel is one of the reasons Powell is lamented as a "lost great."The skill of the dialogue is matched by the delicate threading of the chapters-- individual set pieces that could stand alone-- into a forward-moving, compelling plot, and matched as well by the psychological insights pertaining to conflicting desires, unspoken wishes, and misunderstandings.The bravado witticisms and verbal duelling are virtuoso, but the multi-layered characterizations provide depth and reveal Powell's strong grasp of human nature.In this example of her writing, a wide cast serves to reveal aspects of the protagonists' natures rather than distract from any thinness of plot, as it did in The Happy Island.Satire here serves a higher purpose than to vent nasty ideas.A great example of writing from the dawn of the mid-century.

3-0 out of 5 stars Interesting view of New York literary life after WWII
This was another book from Michael Dirda's list of 100 Best Humorous Books in the English Language, and another one that I enjoyed reading, but not so much for any comedy. I'd chalk it up to a difference of definition of what humor is, except so many of the books on Dirda's list that I had read I totally agreed with in regards to comedic intent and result. If anything, the list has got me trying books and authors that I had never heard of before.

What I did like about Dawn Powell's The Locusts Have No King was its portrait of literary life in New York City in the middle of last century, with its strange mixture of social and economic classes. The novel centers on the love affair of Frederick Olliver, an academically inclined writer of histories, and Lyle Gaynor, one-half of a married pair of playwrights with some recent success on Broadway. Lyle refuses to leave her husband, an invalid who depends on her partnership, and Frederick is too besmitten to insist on it. When a strange girl called Dodo attaches her social-climbing self on to Frederick just as he is heading to a society party that Lyle has insisted he attend, this delicate cocktail is upset, and the lives of Frederick, Lyle and everyone around them is changed.

This is a character-driven story, as the plot is easily summarized. Powell switches her point-of-view between the two main characters easily, and some of the frisson of this novel is how Lyle or Frederick so easily misunderstand the actions of the other (a staple of many comedies). I felt these situations, however, generated more pathos than bathos, as I felt sorry for these characters rather than bemused by their stubbornness. Maybe that's because I empathized too much with these two social-crossed lovers. Dodo, the "pooh" girl (called so for her tendency to call her beaus sticks-in-the-mud with the cry of "oh, pooh on you"), is almost as annoying as Fran Drescher's Nanny character, as you can almost hear that nasal voice in every piece of dialogue, and as Frederick becomes in turn besotted, obsessed, and disgusted with her, so does the reader.

Overall, an interesting novel, but not enough that I want to immediately check out more of Powell's writing.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Novel of Fallen Ideals
The title of Dawn Powell's 1948 novel is derived from the Book of Proverbs:"The locusts have no king, yet they go forth all of them by bands."The title suggests a certain degree of smallness, conformity, and crowd (swarm) mentality-- a lack of vision and a falling off of what creative life could be.I thought invariably of Nathanael West's "Day of the Locust" set in Hollywood, besides New York City that other center of American dreams.West's novel is a novel of irony which depicts conformity, crassness, and lovelessness in a manner that does resemble Powell's novel.There are parallels in Powell's book with many other novels as well.

"The Locusts have no King" is set in New York City between the period of the end of WW II and the first test nuclear explosion on Bikini Atoll in 1947.The novel is a story of fallen ideals and of the difficult effort required to keep and recover at least some sense ofone's ideals.The ideals in question are primarily those of true love and passion and also those of following and remaining faithful to one's dream -- in the case of this book, the dream of writing

The story is told in Powell's sharply ironical voice.Some readers find her voice cool, brittle and impresonal.But I got involved with the main characters and found it moving.

The central character of the book is Frederick, a serious writer and scholar (not attached to any university) who studies medieval history and writes books and articles which few people read.For many years, he has been carrying on an affairwith a woman named Lyle, who writes plays together with her crippled husband.Frederick's head is termed by what we today would call a bimbo appropriately named Dodo.("Pooh on you"!, she says, througout the book)At the same time, Frederick's financial fortune turns when his publisher prevails upon him to edit a periodical appropriately named "Haw" which becomes a commercial success.

The main plot of the story involves Frederick's attempt to understand and put his love life and his writing life back together.

Powell develops this basically serious story is an atmosphere of superficiality.The story moves forward in the bars and pubs of New York City and in party scenes among those on the make.Powell is a master at describing the bars and the streets of New York and in depicting party chatter.The book is full of tart, cutting one-liners and of aphorisms.The theme of fallen ideals in love and thinking is carried through in the settings of the story.Powell has a deeply ambivalent attitude, I think, towards these settings.She clearly knows them well.

This is not a book to be read for the author's skill in plotting.The book is cluttered with many characters and incidents. Powell is a wondeful prose stylist in this book as in her other novels that I have read.In this book I found places where the prose as well as the characters were cluttered and laid on too thick. The strength of the book lies in its description of New York and in Powell's description of how ideals and visions can come short.I found this poignantly displayed.

Powell's own description of "The Locusts have no King" offers valuable insight into what the book has to offer.She wrote:

"The theme ... deals with the disease of destruction sweeping though our times... each person out to destroy whatever valuable or beautiful thing life has... The moral is ... one must cling to whatever remnants of love, friendship, or hope above and beyond reason that one has, for the enemy is all around ready to snatch it."

This is an excellent novel by a deservedly rediscovered American writer.

5-0 out of 5 stars When a "Real" New Yorker Is Just a Provincial
This is a fine, funny satire of New York literary life, and of the thousands of "real New Yorkers" who arrive from their small town or boring suburb and don't write that great novel, or make it big in the theatre, but live the literary lifestyle and are, in fact, "pretentiously bohemian, loudly literary" - in fact, not very likable.You've met people like this, and thanks to the talent of Dawn Powell you can laugh your head off about them.

Here's the guy who tells you "The reason I never went in for painting is I'd want to do it so much better than anyone else."Here's the woman whose "voice showed such cautiously refined diction as to hint at some fatal native coarseness."Here's the folks at a party "generously happy in the pleasure their company was surely giving."And here's the stranger who bends your ear with: "My great ambition has always prevented me from doing anything."

A great piece of description comes during Powell's depiction of a night school for recently-arrived "real" New Yorkers afraid of revealing their ignorance:"There were courses in Radio Appreciation," and such like, leaving the narrator "marvelling afresh that so many grown up, self-supporting people should be eagre to spend money studying not a subject itself but methods to conceal their ignorance of it."

The whole novel is a vast canvas of such scenes and throughout Powell is painting a absorbing picture of 1940's New York (and the New York of today!).One thing Powell is excellent at, in a way Eugene O'neill is, too, is in stripping away the pipe dreams that people veil their lives with, and showing the reader the real, stark truth.Her satire is worthy of Saul Bellow and Gore Vidal; indeed of Aristophanes and Petronius - the latter two writers she loved (she was friends with Vidal, too, in the New York of the 40's and 50's).If you like this one, try her Happy Island, and indeed, all her New York novels.

4-0 out of 5 stars A challenging read
The novel explores a world the movies managed to miss -- the working bohemian class of the late 1940s. The narrator is extremely chatty, and there's a lot of telling instead of showing. But the effort is worth it. The two main characters -- an itinerant scholar and a playwright who props up her physically challenged husband -- are not too sympathetic, but at the end you're glad that they end up the way they do. Intertwined into the plot are some great observations on a world long plowed under by the Donald and the Rudy. ... Read more

6. Sunday, Monday, and Always: Stories by Dawn Powell
by Dawn Powell
Paperback: 220 Pages (1999-10-01)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$5.49
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Asin: 1883642604
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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This new edition, first published in 1952, includes four previously uncollected stories: "Can't We Cry a Little?" "The Elopers," "Dinner on the Rocks," and "What Are You Doing in My Dreams? ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars Witty little vignettes
Although Dawn Powell was more widely known in the first half of the 20th century as a playwright and novelist, she apparently wrote hundreds of short stories as well that she sold to magazines, allowing her to support her art. This collection of what she considered her best short-fiction work (according to the preface) offers some witty, entertaining nuggets of cosmopolitan life in NYC during the '40s and '50s. Many of the characters are trying desperately to "make it big" somehow, whether in big business, movie stardom, the literary scene, high society, etc. Powell's razor-sharp view of such characters is both mocking and often sympathetic. Many of the stories somehow reminded me of musicals of the Hollywood's Golden Age, and the dialogue seems straight from Busby Berkely.

The stories are all truly "short stories"--most no more than 5 or 10 pages. They are almost like one-act plays, enough to introduce you to the main players and what their environment is like, walk you through a crucial and significant moment (an audition, a forbidden shopping spree, a dinner party, a funeral), and it's over--perfect if you are not in the mood to make a longer reading commitment to one of Ms. Powell's novels (although you should!). A witty--and sometimes ascerbic--look at American society in an age gone by. ... Read more

7. Selected Letters of Dawn Powell: 1913-1965
by Dawn Powell, Tim Page
Hardcover: 373 Pages (1999-09-30)
list price: US$30.00 -- used & new: US$56.48
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Asin: B000H2MTOQ
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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The rediscovery of Dawn Powell is in full swing. Her novels, most of them back in print, now grace the shelves of bookstores across the nation. Tim Page's masterly biography of Powell has helped to generate an enormous amount of publicity and renewed interest in this immensely provocative and insightful writer-including a three-page spread in The New York Times.

Terry Teachout, writing in The New York Times Book Review, hailed The Diaries of Dawn Powell, edited by Tim Page, as one of the outstanding literary finds of the last quarter century. This collection of Dawn Powell's letters promises to create yet another wave of excitement and discovery. Written to friends, fans, relatives, and publishers, and to Malcolm Lowry, John Dos Passos, Edmund Wilson, Max Perkins, and Malcolm Cowley, they are rife with Powell's great ability to entertain. This collection will complete the restoration and rehabilitation of one of America's finest literary voices.Amazon.com Review
The great prose comedian Flann O'Brien called humor "the handmaid of sorrowand fear." Perhaps O'Brien, who had more than the customary quotient ofmisery in his own existence, was exaggerating--but his insight is certainlyborne out by the art and life of Dawn Powell. Seldom has a writer'scurriculum vitae been so overshadowed by wretchedness: as Tim Pagedocuments in his fine biography, Powell had tocontend with career frustrations, a seriously disturbed son, late-breakingpenury, and a misdiagnosed tumor so large that it was actually cracking herribs by the time it was extracted. But Powell managed to maintain anextraordinary standard of levity in her fiction, whichtreats both Manhattan sophisticates and Midwestern rubes with evenhanded,satirical brilliance (think of her as a homegrown Evelyn Waugh,with an added soupçon of Yankee asperity). And the same thing holds truefor her correspondence, which the ever-dutiful Tim Page has now assembledin Selected Letters of Dawn Powell: 1913-1965.

Powell modulated her epistolary voice for her various pen pals, a groupthat included John Dos Passos, Maxwell Perkins, and Edmund Wilson (whom shecalls "Wig," perhaps a reference to his shiny-pated middle age). Butthroughout, she tends to put a comical gloss on her tribulations, with thetears of things peeking out through the cracks. As the very first letter inthe collection reveals, the author already had a handle on her comedicresources at age 17, describing a dog's righteous indignation: "Saturday Idecided to make a miniature peach meringue pie. When Benjamin caught aglimpse of me, suspiciously decorated with flour, he gave a low cry of painand staggered away. He didn't return until late that night when I heard himweeping and gnashing his teeth out in the chicken yard." But Powell justgot better from there--much better. This volume contains thousands ofincidental barbs and felicities, which makes it a true browser's heaven.And nobody should overlook the marvelous, on-the-fly credo she addressed toa publisher who was about to turn down her whip-smart masterwork The Locusts Have No King:

Edmund Wilson, the critic, insists I have been writing "existential" novelsfor years, before Sartre. I object, for my novels are based on thefantastic designs made by real human beings earnestly laboring to maladjustthemselves to fate. There is no principle for them to prove--they maydisobey the law of gravity as they please. My characters are not slaves toan author's propaganda. I give them their heads. They furnish their ownnooses.
Powell labored as hard as humanly possible to accommodate her ownfate--with, perhaps, mixed results. But her Selected Letters are aglorious and supremely funny record of her long struggles and (truly)lasting triumphs.--James Marcus ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars It is a wonderful collection - thank you Tim Page!
I am a neice of Dawn Powell's and we are all very grateful for the notice she is finally receiving.She has contributed so much to American literature and our family is most grqateful to Tim Page for the recognitionshe is receiving at long last. ... Read more

8. Four Plays by Dawn Powell
by Dawn Powell, Tim Page, Michael Sexton
Paperback: 400 Pages (1999-11-01)
list price: US$19.00 -- used & new: US$6.95
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Asin: 1883642612
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From her college days onward, Dawn Powell dreamed of becoming a successful playwright. This volume contains both comedies that were produced in her lifetime - Jigsaw and Big Night - along with Women at Four O'Clock and Walking Down Broadway, the latter adapted by Erich von Stroheim into the film Hello, Sister! ... Read more

9. My Home Is Far Away: An Autobiographical Novel
by Dawn Powell
Paperback: 295 Pages (1995-08-09)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$2.45
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Asin: 1883642434
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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One of the permanent masterpieces of childhood, comparable with David Copperfield. --The New York Times Book ReviewAmazon.com Review
Dawn Powell was in the midst of writing one of her finest satires,A Time to Be Born, when she contracted a fever that brought childhoodmemories back so vividly that she stopped her novel and began scrawlingreminiscences that were later collected in My Home Is Far Away. Although not trueautobiography, the life of the main character, Marcia Willard, parallelsPowell's life, including the death of her mother, life with a father whowas on the road, and the traumatic remarriage of her father to a viciousand selfish woman. My Home Is Far Away is an excellent depiction of what childcarewas like for motherless children in the 19th century in comparison to theirfamily-oriented neighbors. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (10)

5-0 out of 5 stars Very Memorable Autobiography That Touched Me in a Very Personal Way
This is one of my favorite books that I have ever read.Some of the charm it held for me may be that it describes life in towns in the North part of Ohio, and I grew up in Toledo, Ohio.Powell's narrative of events and places made me feel like I could imagine my own ancestors experiences in this part of the country.I think that the times were the times of my grandparents, and great grandparents.

The telling of the sequence of events showed the differences between daily life of the late 1800s-early 1900s and our own time in a way that changed my consciousness of those times, so near, so different, and so expository of the attitudes and personalities of my own grandparents.There is a lot of hardship, by today's standards, but it seemed to be taken as a matter of course in the times.

The personalities and foibles, concerns and coping mechanisms of the characters, at the same time, were so recognizable in the people and lives I know today.Dawn Powell's story, and Dawn Powell's way of telling her story, have stayed with me for many years after having read the book.

I finished reading this in one day -- that's how gripping I found it.It's literary in the way that F. Scott Fitzgerald and Willa Cather are literary -- the diction and syntax are polished, the setting is captured with precise details, but the plot comes through clearly -- and it's hard to put this down once you start to read it.This is my first Dawn Powell novel, but I intend to read all of her works after this amazing introduction.

5-0 out of 5 stars Coming of Age in Rural Ohio
Dawn Powell (1896 -1965) wrote novels about her youth in small town Ohio at the turn of the century and about New York City, where she spent most of her adult life. In general, Powell wrote the New York City novels, such as "Turn Magic Wheel", and "The Locusts Have no King" later in her career.They tend to be sharp satires.Her earlier Ohio novels, such as "Dance Night" and "Come Back to Sorrento", are marked, I think, by a depiction of small town life which is critical and bittersweet, as well as somewhat satirical, and by a restlessness and sense of frustration, ...

Powellworked for three years on "My Home is Far Away" which was published in 1944. She had difficulty with the book, writing and rewriting the various scenes as she tried to fictionalize her biography and turn it into a novel. The book appears in the midst of her New York novels, and it is a throwback in to her earlier books with its setting in Ohio, its focus on childhood, and its bittersweet tone.Powell intended this novel as the first of a three-part trilogy, but the other two volumes never materialized.

Most of Powell's novels seem to me distinctly autobiographical in tone and "My Home is Far away" is particularly so.It tells the story of a family, focusing on three young sisters, Lena, Marcia, and Florrie, their father Harry, their mother Daisy, and, after Daisy's death, their stepmother Idah.There are basiclly three parts to the story:the period leading to the death of Daisy, and intervening period in which the three girls are raised by their father and assorted other relatives, and a the period after their father remarries and the girls are subjected to a cruel stepmother.When they find they can no longer take the abuse, they leave home and come into their own lives.

The title of the novel, "My Home is Far Away" derives from an Irish song that the girls sing with their mother.The title well captures some of the rootlesness of the family as they move from here to there.It also evokes well the longing for a home life and for a stability which the family, and Dawn Powell, never had.

One of the problems with this book is diffentiating the characters of three young girls. On the whole, this is handled effectively. The Dawn Powell character is the middle sister, Marcia, who is plain but highly precocious.The older girl, Lena, is much more sociable and outgoing.

The family moved a great deal from one small Ohio town to another and to different places within various towns.The most effective scenes in the book for me were the pictures of many dingy, run-down hotels and small town back streets during which the girls spent much of their childhood.The father, Harry, was a travelling salesman who, for most of the book, has difficulty holding a job and spending time with his family.He professes to love his family, but doesn't provide well.He spends his time and money hanging around with his friends and, apparently, with women in various towns.

One key moment in the book occurs rather early in it when the girls' mother dies.This scene is beautifully told.Then we see Harry trying to shunt the girls off to various relatives until he finally attempts to care for them himself.The marriage to Idah brings Harry some stability, but at a terrible cost.Idah is a shrewish, jealous stepmother.The two older girls both leave home to get away from her.

This book has some slow moments, but it is a wonderful coming-of-age novel and gives a good picture of the rural midwest.It is good that Dawn Powell's novels are in print and readily accessible.It is intriguing to think how she might have proceeded in the remaining two projected volumes of her autobiographical trilogy.

5-0 out of 5 stars Triumph!
Dawn Powell was no whiner- and as this highly autobiographical novel attests, she had plenty of reason to complain!The story of her turn of the century Ohio childhood, is told through the viewpoint of Marcia, the gifted, plain, middle child of three motherless sisters.Despite a neglectful, absent and grandiose father, ( a child himself,)and a host of inadequate relatives, the girls are largely delighted with their world, which by modern standards is one of poverty and neglect. The book is an object lesson in attitudes and expectations that become reality.
This was an era that discouraged pity, and would have been dumbfounded by modern 'confessional' trends.The attitudes toward children, would be barbaric today. The girls remained loyal to their father, even as they grew to understand his weaknesses, and they found delight in characters that would be considered dangerous and forbidden today.Their own grandmother, refusing to attend to fire safety, managed to burn down four houses, including her own, from which weeks before the girls had just been removed.This is a story of a triumph of childhood with nothing of the tone of the adult looking back in a lament.In some ways, it is similar to "Angela's Ashes," another horrible experience of childhood, that uniquely avoids the subject ofdepression and rage.This even holds true for the archetypical wicked stepmother, an unrelenting, hateful woman who sadistically confiscated or forbade any object or activity of pleasure.
The most amazing part of Marcia, is this 'game' she played, when she was in the midst of an ordeal. She could reach down inside of herself and become the person who was devoid of reactions to the current stress and be completely strong and capable of enduring the trauma through to the end.It is a testimony, spoken by a child, of the human spirit, and the infinite manifestations and sources of power by which mankind survives. I will definitely read this book again, for its fresh outlook and restrained economy.

5-0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and poignant
I have only recently begun to hear about the little-known American author Dawn Powell, and this is the first of her novels that I have read. It is so hard to believe that Ms. Powell's work has been largely ignored for decades--she writes so beautifully, with wit and pathos in equal measures. Dawn Powell's passion for writing comes through on every page, her characters lively and real, their adventures and personalities engaging, and her descriptions of turn-of-the-century Ohio vivid. She captures the points of view and imaginations of her child protagonists (the three sisters, who are central to the story) with complete accuracy--I found myself smiling in recognition at what it was like to think like a child again. And what's more, this is largely a true story--based on Dawn Powell's own sad childhood, when she lost her mother and gained an abusive stepmother (and seemed to be mainly neglected by her ineffectual father). All in all, a moving and enthralling story--the main character reminded me of Little Women's Jo as well as Jane Eyre, at times. Highly recommended. ... Read more

10. The Diaries of Dawn Powell: 1931-1965
by Dawn Powell
Paperback: 528 Pages (1998-08-01)
list price: US$29.99 -- used & new: US$12.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1883642256
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
"The struggle chronicled in The Diaries of Dawn Powell is as brave and feisty a story as any to be found in the novels that made her Ernest Hemingway’s ‘favorite living writer."--James Wilcox, Elle Magazine
WHEN DAWN POWELL'S unpublished Diaries first appeared three years ago, the book was proclaimed on the front cover of the New York Times Book Review as "one of the outstanding literary finds of the last quarter-century . . . a book in a thousand." More praise followed from nearly every quarter, including Gore Vidal in The New York Review of Books, Daniel Aaron in The New Republic, and Bill Buford in The New Yorker ("reads like a mini-book of mini-stories – one compact, perfectly formed arrative followed by another").
Powell had a brilliant mind and a keen wit and her humor was never at a finer pitch than in her diaries. And yet her story is a poignant one – a son emotionally and mentally impaired, a household of too much alcohol and never enough money, and an artistic career that, if not a failure, fell far short of the success she craved. All is recorded here – along with working sketches for her novels, and often revealing portraits of her many friends (a literary who’s who of her period) – in her always unique style and without self-delusion.
With the publication of Tim Page’s biography of Powell planned for this fall, and with all of her best works now back in print, it would appear that Dawn Powell has clearly ‘arrived’ to take her deserved place in American letters. And her remarkable Diaries will stand as one of her finest literary achievements.Amazon.com Review
Dawn Powell has often been overlooked since her death at 67 in1965, but her brilliant novels, such as Angels On Toast, A Time to Be Born and The Wicked Pavilion arereturning to print. And to accompany her rediscovery, The Diariesof Dawn Powell: 1931-1965 presents a wondrous evocation of thewriting life. More than mere diaries, Powell's journals are at times aworkbook presenting many fully-formed narratives. There are thoughtfulpieces about why she feels compelled to write and gripes about howwriters live. And scattered throughout are witty and gossipy essaysabout living in literary New York and socializing and working withsuch characters as Edmund Wilson,John DosPassos, her editor Max Perkins, andthe woman to whom she was often unfairly compared,DorothyParker. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars "Diaries tell nothing--chips from a heroic statue."
I'm far from being an expert on Powell, have only read one of her novels (The Wicked Pavilion). I picked up the Diaries on a strong recommendation. No regrets.

This is a long and rich book, 477 pages in my edition. Like so many diaries, it impressed me with Powell's sheer humanity. Unlike other diaries, I felt as though I learned something about many things-- specifically writing, a little bit about truth. And a little bit about artifice too-- his isn't a historical document, but a journal of a mind. These journals span World War II, but you would hardly know it was happening from the text.

Powell was a prolific writer who worked from the 1930s to the 1950s. I'm glad she was prolific, because I'm going to start in on the rest of her books.

Highly recommended. Gold star to Steerforth Press for the extremely helpful biographical notes.

5-0 out of 5 stars Candid, tough, sensitive writing.
Thank you, Steerforth & Tim Page (and Gore Vidal) for making the workof Dawn Powell available. Of all her books, I like the diaries the best--socandid, such a grown-up view of the world; her comments on writing, the NewYork literary world, and the gritty beauty and ugliness of New York arealways acute. Her grasp of the complexity of relationships is amazing-hercomments about her husband Joe, her sweetheart, and her child are poignantreminders that life need not be perfect to be rich. Here is the voice of aremarkable woman, one of the most clear-eyed American writers of thetwentieth-century. She captures a particular New York moment as does noother writer, and that's saying something.

I am somehow reminded ofanother great writer, another unsentimental woman: Natalia Ginzburg. AnItalian, her work and Powell's are very different, yet they share a rarecandor and stoicism. ... Read more

11. The Wicked Pavilion
by Dawn Powell
 Hardcover: Pages (1954)

Asin: B0041OEA2A
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (4)

4-0 out of 5 stars Powell Broadens Her Comedy
This follow-up novel to Powell's superb *The Locusts Have No King* is a full-on comedy.Instead of Locusts' character study brushed with satiric views, Pavilion comes closer to farce. Because it was written during Powell's maturity as an author, Pavilion contains the impressive insights into human motivations and characters' struggles to keep some of their instincts private from the others in the cast.The novel uses a common meeting ground in the title cafe to have various patrons meet or avoid one another, seek or exploit, stumble upon or alienate each other.There are some interesting farcical types weaving in and out of the cafe-- a pair of art forgers, a socialite wannabe and her unsolicited patron, bickering young lovers.If Pavilion is not as incisive as Locusts, it is nevertheless appealing and a high-paced read, nearly a "slamming doors" type roundelay.If Locusts was "All About Eve" then Pavilion would be "The Lady Eve"-- both worthwhile, one more penetrating and realistic in approach.Pavilion is more astute than Powell's next, and last, novel, *The Golden Spur*, which has her straining to convincingly portray a Midwestern innocent amidst jaded Villagers of the late 50s.

4-0 out of 5 stars Satire and Disillusion
Dawn Powell (1897-1965) grew up in rural Ohio, but spent most of her adult life in New York City. Although little known during her lifetime, her reputation has blossomed in recent years."The Wicked Pavilion" is her next-to-last novel.It was written in 1954 and is set in New York City in the late 1940's.

The "Wicked Pavilion" in the novel is the Cafe Julien, on Washington Square in Grenwich Village.It is a haunt for failed artists, lovers, bohemians, mid-towners, and those on the make.The novel centers around three groups of characters: a) a group of three failed artist friends, Dazell, Ben and Maurius and their agents and hangers-on.Much of the story centers upon the apparent death of Marius and the instant celebrity and inflation of his reputation that follows in its wake; b) Rick and Elleanora, on-again off-again lovers who meet and carry on their relationship over the years in the Cafe Julien; c)Elsie and Jerry.Elsie is an elderly woman from a wealthy Boston family who befriends Jerry a struggling model and would -be kept woman who spends a night in a mental institution with prostitutes.The three stories are interrelated, but the plot does not fit together althogether well and is the weakest part of this still excellent novel.

The book is biting precise, well-observed satire. The characters in the book, both male and female, are predominantly people who have come to New York from the Midwest in search of adventure, art, success, a new life -- much as Dawn Powell herself did.The dream of New York as a "happy city" remains but it becomes covered in Powell's work with disillusion, failure, and cynicism.The artists lack talent, the lovers lack passion, and everyone is on the make.Still, at the end of the book, the Cafe Julien is torn down and Powell makes us feel how an era is at an end.

The book begins with a short chapter, an essay in fact,called "entrance" which sets the stage for the disillusion we see in the course of the book.It also sets out, as satire will do, an ideal which the world the book shows us only parodies. Powell writes"

"But there were many who were bewildered by the moral mechanics of the age just as there are those who can never learn a game no matter how long they've been obliged to play it or how many times they've read the rules and paid the forfeits.It this is the way the world is turning around, they say, then by all means let it stop turning, lit us get off the cosmic Ferris wheel into space.Allow us the boon of standing still till the vertigo passes, give us a respite to gather together the scraps of what was once us -- the old longings for what? for whom" that give us our wings and the chart for our tomorrows."

This book gives a picture of a New York City that physically is no longer and perhaps always lived as a vision and ideal. The book is sharp, cutting and funny in its picture of what Powell portrays as a fallen reality.

5-0 out of 5 stars I Admit It- I Never Heard Her Name!
I had never heard of Dawn Powell before- this was the first of her novels that I've read. The New York art scene of the that compelling between war period, is drawn and quartered in this timeless tale of obsession and illusion that is a comic classic of the highest form. I read the book in one and a half sittings and regretted its end. I strongly disagree with those who accuse it of nothing more than a bitchy and bitter novel. I was overcome, at the gentility by which Powell drew the most vulgar and opportunisitic social pariahs with ultimate sympathy and grace. Even the most pretentious social parasite, is awarded a show of dignity, and not a reptilian exit that would have been his due in less compassionate hands. The Cafe Julien, described in the title is modeled on a real artists' haunt in Powell's Greenwich Village. However it is equally every time and every place where humans come apart and remake themselves in that painful custom peculiar to man. It is no less the synagogue of the moneychangers, Balzac's Paris, the Occupied Left Bank, The Storming of Versailles. It could be peculiar to Caesar's or Mussolini's Rome with decadence the perfect counterpart of Brechtian Berlin. For this is how we act, this is what we do; often in the name of art and always, in pursuit of glory. We create and devour, crown and then dethrone, and like the lions, we will honor the new ruler by gobbling our young. In the Wicked Pavillion, some artists die physically and the rest undergo a spirtual death all in pursuit of what cannot be named. Even the timeless Julian is ultimately leveled and as easily forgotten as the woman who once had beauty and now posesses nothing else. Barstools at the Julian were like places at a royal court and equally vain and vicious were the proud patrons who owned them. We witness once committed artists become forgers of their dead comrade's work, postuhumously valuable. Everyone is making out, the would-be intellectual critics and the jackals who own the galleries. Even an ex comes uninvited to a mock remembrance service covered in widow's weeds. The service is taped and reveals nothing more than the vicious remarks made about all in attendance. Everyone is stripped and denuded but none so starkly as the naked, crazy prostitutes locked away on a psych. ward- the fate to which their chic counterparts eventually succumb. But, forget this cautionary blather- read the book for the character Elsie!
She is my newly crowned queen of American characters, a pretender to the throne of female greats held for years by her predecessor, the equally, overbearing British country Dame, Lady Circumference, the infamous peeress in Waugh's,"Decline and Fall." I so love these heavy, plodding females with aristocratic license to bore and command. Boston-bashing Brahmin, Elsie Hookler, is the terror of any hostess, intrusive grand dame, consummately worthy of position in American characters. Readers of Waugh, Wharton, Mitford, Parker, etc.- you know who you are- this is required!

5-0 out of 5 stars The Gift of Laughter
"Born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world is mad," remarks an anonymous character in "The Wicked Pavilion."That seems like a shard of a micro-self-portrait buried inthe book.And can one ever doubt how clear-sighted Powell was about herunique strength?Recently Lorrie Moore took Powell to task in The New YorkTimes Book Review (Nov 7, 1999) for her "point-of-view problems.""'[Her novels] are dart-throwing fiestas,' to borrow one critic'swords," said Moore, "'The Wicked Pavilion,' for instance, is onthe brittle brink of being mere mood -- mean and elegant, but whose?"Such Jamesian prudence is off-base when confronted with Powell's raucous,near-drunken laughter bellowing from almost every page.(Her razor-sharpwit seems able to better Woody Allan any day!But how many artist-foolscan we find in our Entertainment Century who could turn down writingassignments from Hollywood on "Funny Girl" and "The Wizardof Oz"?)Powell's comic vision is unabashedly omniscient andaggressively earthy."The Wicked Pavilion" is no doubt elegant.If it appears to be acidic, it's also unmistakably warm.Her lyricism atthe end of the novel brings to mind her elegant but no less tough-mindedpredecessor Edith Wharton, for what else is Cafe Julien but Society -- inthis context the Glamor-rotten Big Apple of New York -- where all is cloaksand masks and the dreams of love and fame a deadly dart-throwingmasquerade?If one finds Powell's caricature of the art world tooone-dimensional, her insights about a struggling artist's plights arepainfully immediate and ultimately, with the ruins of her life hauntingthese pages, authoritative."Being dead has spoilt me," saidMarius, the artist who is complicit in the news of his death and witnessesthe incredible ascendence of his reputation.At such moments you seem tohear Dawn Powell speaking from beyond the grave.Her voice has survivedmagnificently, not because she has, like Marius, won "the GrandImmortal Prize of death which opened the gates closed in life" to her,but because it has spoken the unspeakable about human foibles and thenecessary lies and illusion of happiness through the mirage of her art. ... Read more

12. THE DIARIES OF DAWN POWELL 1931-1965. Edited With An Introduction by Tim Page
by Dawn) (Powell
 Hardcover: Pages (1995)

Asin: B000MZAQWA
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13. Selected Letters of Dawn Powell, 1913-1965. Ed., with an introd., by Tim Page
by Dawn Powell
 Paperback: Pages (1999)

Asin: B003ZKYBSE
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14. United States Authors Series: Dawn Powell (Twayne's United States Authors Series)
by Marcelle Smith Rice
Hardcover: 182 Pages (2000-03-07)
list price: US$45.00 -- used & new: US$45.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0805716025
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (2)

3-0 out of 5 stars Academic Analysis
Rice's volume on Dawn Powell provides a survey of the author's novels, grouped as NY novels, Ohio novels, and miscellany.Only passing mention is made of Powell's stories and plays, as well as her screenplays and reviews, which apparently have not been collected or identified.Rice provides a thumbnail biography of two dozen pages to introduce the analytical chapters.Rice's book is a more complete observation of Powell's novels than Vidal's pieces have been, but her survey of Powell's multi-faceted, fascinating life is far more abridged than Tim Page's biography.

The tentpole of the volume is a chapter dissecting the NY cycle of novels.This chapter reads as a re-worked dissertation, replete with academic terminology such as mennipea, experimental fantasticality, ritual act of decrowning, ridicule of philosophus gloriosus, carnivalizations-- terminology mostly originating with theorist Mikhail Bakhtin.True to dissertation format, the jargon is accompanied by index entries for Bakhtin and Mennipean Satire that are longer than all other index entries, including the entry "Powell, Dawn."In her attempt to fit Powell's NY novels into the Bakhtin satire mold, she will brook no negative criticism of any of the novels, not by Diana Trilling or Edmund Wilson, not even by Powell herself, as we have read in Tim Page's collected letters and diaries.Asthetics be damned, even the weak novels fit the mennipea mold, and thus have equal merit to the masterworks.It's akin to saying that because Woody Allen is a satirist, Jade Scorpion is comparable to Crimes and Misdemeanors or Manhattan.Rice strains to portray Powell as having written in conformity to theoretical devices that were put forth after her death (eg Northrup Frye's volume in 1966; Bakhtin's 1984 piece on Dostoevsky, an unfortunate comparison for Powell novels).

The other chapters are less tethered to the thesis, and so they are reader-friendly, jargon-free compare-and-contrast essays.They catalogue the types of protagonists and situations Powell explored in the non-NY novels.What fascinates me most about Powell, both in her novels and her personal writings, is the wit, acuity, and self-destructiveness of the woman doing the writing. Rice doesn't address the author's inner life or such biographical fuel as Powell's simultaneous energizing by and distraction from chaotic peer attachments, romantic and otherwise, her haphazard use of her own and her husband's incomes for domestic needs, etc.I'll try Page's biography in hopes of glimpsing the personal to complement the deconstruction in the Rice volume.

5-0 out of 5 stars A splendid study of a great writer
Having spent the last nine years involved in my own research into the life and work of Dawn Powell, I was unprepared for the richness and depth of Marcelle Smith Rice's fresh take on this extraordinary author.I learned agreat deal from this book -- and enjoyed every bit of it.Rice's prose isclear, welcoming, insightful and detailed, and she has written anaffectionate and appropriate study. ... Read more

15. Dawn Powell: A Biography
by Tim Page
Paperback: 352 Pages (1999-09-30)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$6.87
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B000H2NEDQ
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
The first biography and the definitive story of a restored American literary treasure.

Perhaps the biggest mystery of Dawn Powell's life is the fact that when she died, all of her books were out of print. She seemed destined to be forgotten. Powell had come to New York City at the age of twenty-one, a gifted and ambitious young woman from a small-town in Ohio. There she lived, usually in some form of domestic uncertainty, for the next forty-seven years. But she always managed to maintain the fresh perspective of a "permanent visitor," exalting the multiplicity and sheer sensory overload of Manhattan. This is what she distilled into her extensive and impressive body of work: her poems, stories, articles, plays, and her dizzying and inventive novels.

In Dawn Powell: A Biography, Tim Page gracefully and intelligently explores all the fascinating ironies and often sad complexities of Powell's life and work. Gore Vidal once referred to her as "our best comic novelist," deserving to be as widely read as Hemingway and Fitzgerald. This biography will be a capstone to her triumphant rise from the ashes of near oblivion and her establishment among the giants of twentieth-century American literature.Amazon.com Review
The resurrection of the great dualistic novelist DawnPowell(1864-1965)--who chronicled both Greenwich Village cafesociety (hilariously) and small-town Ohio life (poignantly)--wasinitially sparked by a 1987 Gore Vidal essay that led to the reissueof several Powell novels. In the 1990s, Washington Post musiccritic Tim Page revivified her further. Page wrote essays aboutPowell, penned introductions for new reprints of her titles, and, withPowell family members, hired a lawyer and sued Powell's ineffectualliterary executor for the release of the writer's amazing collectionof papers. From there, he edited and guided The Diaries of DawnPowell, which assured her standing as primary wit and socialchronicler of the 20th century.

But Powell still had no biography; now Page has taken care of that,too.Dawn Powell: A Biography is the first published accountof her life story, as chronicled via letters, diary entries, andreminiscences from surviving relatives and friends. Apart from somesentimental, long-winded slides describing Powell's troubled Ohioyouth ("the happiest moments of her childhood were those idyllic timeswhen she was hidden away by herself, in treetops, thickets, or atticrooms, pencil in hand, observing people, places, and events andrecording everything in her notebooks"), Page's tone in this book isserious, studious, and well balanced. More detective than literarycritic, Page eschews literary analysis in favor of neatly organizeddiscussions of each of her 15 novels, setting his own textual synopsesagainst Powell's diary entries and public and private reviews of eachtitle (her friends Edmund Wilson and John Dos Passos frequentlyoffered unpublished critiques).

Page doesn't justify Powell's questionable decisions (marrying JosephGousha, a heavy alcoholic; institutionalizing her afflicted son), nordoes he ignore her less admirable qualities (her own heavy drinking,her apathy towards politics and social causes). He consults doctorsabout the family illnesses (Powell's son Jojo was likely autistic, notretarded; Powell's belief that the tumor she suffered in her 50s was avestigial twin is instead attributed to a rare tumor called ateratoma). He reveals her true age (a year older than she claimed). Hestates her likely lovers (almost certainly radical playwright JohnHoward Lawson, possibly writer Coburn Gilman). He tracks down a life'sworth of wild freelance jobs and job offers (analyzing songs for aradio show, which she took; writing a treatment of Frank L. Baum'sWizard of Oz, which she declined). He also, slightly abashedly,refutes his own earlier published claim that she spent a portion ofher later years homeless, explaining instead that facts show that sheand her husband actually lived in a series of residential hotels inManhattan during that time.

Well-balanced, to the point of being dispassionate, this biographyspeaks to the converted. If you're not yet a Powell fan, grab herdiaries and novels first. --Jean Lenihan ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

4-0 out of 5 stars The Woman Behind The Great Satires
I came to Powell a few years ago via the beautifully designed Steerforth volumes sporting 40s B&W photos.Having never heard of her, I quickly moved from novel to novel, agog when her talent for characterization was successfully combined with wit.It's difficult not to be intrigued by the author of such unique observations.Somewhere between reading a third and fourth novel I devoured her selected diary entries, and between the fifth and sixth novels launched into her selected letters and the Marcelle Rice review.I was still eager to learn more about the muses and demons of this superlative author.

Having just finished this biography, I can say that Page's book can successfully take the place of the diaries, letters, and Rice review for most readers.Since the letters are comprised only of those sent, not received, by Powell, and are highlights, they go only so far as a glimpse into the soul of the woman.Page had access to much additional material and in the biography is able to quote the letters and diary entries in a fascinating context.His volume paints a multifaceted portrait of the woman.He was persistent in interviewing remaining friends and family to set the scene in a fuller way.The end result is this satisfying and moving account of an amusing, endearing, and exasperating Village resident for anyone left wanting more after reading a Powell novel.

Much miscellany lies beyond the novels and short stories in Powell's career-- book reviews, nonfiction articles, screenplays-- to occupy future dissertations and biographies.These potential projects will be welcomed annexes to a Powell depiction, but it is difficult to imagine a more human account of her life than Page's.

5-0 out of 5 stars Wits are not happy
Tim Page has done an excellent job of writing in this biography of an important writer who has been overlooked, ignored.Gore Vidal did boost Powell's posthumous reputation through a piece in THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS, but Page, arguably, has done the major work of excavation.The book is a joy to read.The accomplishment here is similar to that of thefamous contemporary English biographers Michael Holroyd and Richard Holmes.

Dawn Powell, 1896-1965, came from Ohio.She was born in Mount Gilead and attended Lake Erie College.She received an honorary degree from that college near the end of her life.In 1918, after college graduation, she moved to Pomfret, CT, to imbibe the artistic atmosphere.After Labor Day she moved to New York City permanently.She found work with the Butterick Company.Later she joined the publicity department of the Red Cross.She free lanced.She met Joseph Gousha.Joseph came to believe it was his role to foster Dawn's genius.

After the couple married, they lived separately initially, and then moved to Riverside Drive.This was a domestic period for Dawn.She kept her name Dawn Powell.Joseph Jr. was born in 1921.His nickname was JoJo.He had enormous intellectual gifts and undiagnosed autism.His behavior was bizarre.A nurse was hired who worked for the family until 1954.In financial difficulties she refused to be fired.Louise Lee's presence allowed Dawn to write again.Joe and Dawn were both heavy drinkers.They pursued their vocations and their avocations separately.They were victims of difficult circumstances and were uncomplaining.

Dawn was close to John Dos Passos and John Howard Lawson and many other writers and artists.A great deal of the time the Goushas lived in Greenwich Village.Sometimes when writing a novel Dawn would go to Atlantic City in order to focus on her work.She liked to disown her first novel, WHITHER, claiming she had been a better writer at age thirteen.SHE WALKS IN BEAUTY was the first of Dawn's Ohio novels.DAWN NIGHT (1930) was the first of her great books.COME BACK TO SORRENTO (1932) was a gentle Ohio novel.TURN, MAGIC WHEEL (1936) portrayed sophisticated New York.THE STORY OF A COUNTRY BOY was sold to Hollywood.

Upon completing THE HAPPY ISLAND, Dawn fell into the hands of Maxwell Perkins when she changed publishers.ANGELS ON TOAST (1940) was witty, urbane.Another satire was A TIME TO BE BORN.The final novel in the Ohio series was MY HOME IS FAR AWAY.In all, she published fifteen novels.A TIME TO BE BORN was rated an enjoyable book about very disagreeable people.Following Max Perkins's death, Dawn's editor was John Hall Wheelock.In 1951 she moved to Houghton Mifflin.Rosalind Wilson, Edmund Wilson's daughter, became her editor.THE WICKED PAVILION (1954) was one of the more popular Dawn Powell novels.It appeared on the New York Times best seller list for one week.Dawn's last book THE GOLDEN SPUR, used material gleaned from drinking nightly at the Cedar Bar.

5-0 out of 5 stars A splendid biography of a lost American author.
Dawn Powell comes vividly to life in this affectionate, well-reasoned and meticulously fair biography.Tim Page has been nothing less than heroic in the service of this once-forgotten American writer -- and it seems to me that he understands her very well indeed.

I had a very different response than one earlier reader to Page's occasional admissions that he didn't know what happened at this or that point in Powell's life. It struck me as refreshingly honest.Very few biographers have the courage to confess that they aren't omniscient and that certain facts will simply get lost over the course of 100 years.And I was very glad that he didn't pad the book with all the Greenwich Village 101 stuff that you find in biographies of practically everybody who ever lived below 14th Street.

Certain people don't "get" Powell, and they probably won't get Page either.For the rest of us, this book has been, and will continue to be, a revelation.

5-0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
I fell in love with Dawn Powell after reading this biography! I recommendreading it highly, as well as looking into some of Powell's own works. Myonly complaint is the lack of photographs of Powell during her best writing(and flirting) years. After reading this book I thought about how manyworth while authors are forgotten and lost to us, and how fine and generousMr. Page has been in exhuming this wonderful woman's reputation and careerfor a new generation that perhaps has finally caught up with her.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Sad but Well-lived Life
I didn't know much about Dawn Powell before I read this book, but am now very glad I've come to know her a little, and I'm eager to read some of her novels, as well. The biography covers her life from her difficult childhoodin Ohio to her many productive years in Manhattan. Along with detailing herlife, the author details her work -- including how various novels cameabout, and how they were received. I recommend this book especially toanyone interested in the lives of writers and how they work. (The bookoffers some chuckles, as well, as Dawn was a very funny and quotablewoman.) ... Read more

16. Dawn Powell At Her Best
by Dawn Powell
 Hardcover: 452 Pages (1994-09-22)
list price: US$28.00 -- used & new: US$25.70
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1883642167
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Deft, funny, knowing, compassionate and poetic.--John Updike in the New Yorker ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars discover dawn powell
What a delight to discover Dawn Powell!This collection offers a selection of novels and short stories that bristle with well-observed details and uncanny insights.She writes with ascerbic humor about the"wanna-bes" and the "haves" in flapper society withsometimes chilling clarity.Like so many of her contemporaries, she wasbrave enough to make heroes of very flawed creatures indeed--and do it verywell.I wanted to know more about her and read more.Discovering hermakes me wonder why Dorothy Parker and Edna Ferber got all the breaks. ... Read more

17. Come Back to Sorrento
by Dawn Powell
 Paperback: Pages (1999)

Asin: B002F16UUG
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (8)

4-0 out of 5 stars Touching, fanciful tale
I have been reading the books in the Library of America series over the past four years, and Dawn Powell's Dance Night was one of my favorites.I approached Come Back to Sorrento with very positive expectations, even though I had read that a ) Dance Night was very different from most of Powell's other novels, and b) Powell herself felt Dance Night was her finest work.

I love novels about life in small, undistinguished Midwestern towns, and I certainly found this novel enjoyable and compelling if not gripping throughout.Its characters are simply drawn, to the point of almost being strange, one-dimensional caricatures. Some of the twists of the plot are unlikely in the extreme.

In this sad little town, a self-isolated, fanciful married woman and a shabby, comically odd, but (self-proclaimed) worldly and cultured high school music director meet.A profound intellectual friendship develops between them. Both supposedly had near-brushes with success in the world of culture and music, but fate (or their own personalities and shortcomings) deprived them of it, leaving them to their current boring, mundane, almost pointless lives.

The relationship between the two odd people becomes their oasis, as they feel superior to all the other townspeople, and think constantly of the past (other places and times, anything but here and now) and what could have been and also intimate vaguely about a renewed (but unlikely) future.

The woman's stolid German husband, uncommunicative to the extreme, but a "good provider", tolerates this friendship.Frequent meetings between Professor Decker and Connie Benjamin (the wife), as well as Louisa (an intellectually inclined young female teacher) occur at Connie's house.Decker and Connie become obsessed with, and highly dependent upon, each other and the intellectual fantasy world they create.

This is not a romance in the normal sense, as there is little physical involvement between the two, or desire for it (except perhaps at a highly suppressed inner level).Their relationship is touching and in a way very understandable given their artistic temperaments and the boring world that surrounds them....

Then some things occur that throw their lives and their precious relationship into jeopardy.This is really a good book, almost like a fable or a fairy tale -- so simple that it is not realistic, but the points that Powell wants to make are thus all the clearer.I rarely give 5 stars, so my 4 stars has to be taken in that context.

5-0 out of 5 stars Dawn Powell at her best
Dawn Powell's "Come Back to Sorrento", was published in 1932 under the title "The Tenth Moon" to little notice from critics or from the public. But this poignant, mostly understated novel set in a drab midwestern town called Dell River is a gem.

The two main characters in the book are Connie Benjamin and Blaine Decker.When we meet Connie as a housewife in her mid-thirties, she is leading a life she finds sterile and barren with her husband Gus, a cobbler, and her two adolescent daughters. As a young woman, Connie had visions of a career as an opera singer, even though this ambition seemed to be based on little more than a commendation of her voice by a famous teacher.Connie also has a past in which she ran off with a young man named Tony who did acrobatics with a circus.Tony aboandoned her, and Connie lives with dreams of a singing career that perhaps could have been and with faded memories of Tony.

Blaine Decker comes to Dell River as the high school music teacher.He rents a small apartment above Gus Decker's shoe repair shop.Decker is a pianist by training (with small hands) who likewise has never had the artistic success of which he dreams.He spent his early years in Europe during which time he was a friend of a writer, Starr Donnell, who had written, as far as Decker knows, one novel.Powell hints throughout the novel at Decker's repressed homosexuality.

The novel explores the relationship that develops between Connie and Blaine.With their shared love of music and their broken, and probably illusory dreams,they feel stifled by the small town of Dell River.They share confidences with each other and at the same time quarrel severely with each other over their respective failures to pursue their dreams.The relationship is at bottom frustrating and unconsummated.It never becomes sexual.

There are wonderful pictures in this book of music and its capacity to bring meaning to life.The seriousness with which Powell discusses the pursuit of classical music in this work contrasts markedly with her picture of frivolous people and activities in her subsequent satirical New York novels.Powell also shows how music can be a means by which people evade their own selves and their own reality.There are also good depictions in the book of life in a small town, particularly those people who teach in High Schools, and of many secondary characters.

As do Powell's latter works, this book contrasts life in a small town with life in the cosmopolitian city, here represented by Paris more than by New York.But there is a certain inward focus to this book which is not shared by her latter satirical pictures of New York.The characters here are limited by Dell River and its environs, but their problems and discontents lie within themselves, in their lack of self-knowledge, and in their failed dreams.The book lacks the sharp cynicism of the latter novels but features instead reflectiveness and sadness.

Powell's writing style in this novel is rather flatter than in her subsequent works but it fits the atmosphere of Dell River that she conveys.There are several moments in the novel or lyricism and intensity.

This probably is not a novel that will ever enjoy wide readership.But it is rare and a treasure.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Highest Art is Life
What a haiku evokes beyond the language, a few words summon a large panorama, Dawn Powell did in this novella. With artful simplicity, the author relates a somewhat comic and somewhat cosmic fable of two lost souls that blend unrealized dreams into reality.Powell writes with the sensitivity of an empath. Inthe bearly visible twitch, the eye that cannot contact, the unconscious hesitations belie the character's pretense so that the secret is just between Powell and her reader.In the far less precise language of psychiatry, this is termed the "as if" self. This deceptively simple story succeeds as myth for within the doubling up of solitary dreams, their souls sweep the cosmos.

Shards of memories, are picked from the realities that defeated them and together they build a palace of dignity that not only holds at bay, their individual sufferings, but becomes wide enough to bring a muted sort of redemption to others, afflicted with similar destinies.
Through music and desire, (platonic, alone) a middle aged housewife, and a odd and tattered music teacher shake off fate and taste, if briefly, what they had been denied.Woven in the tale, is the past of childhood trauma and rejection, abandonment and 'making do,' that the odd duo become nothing less than extraordinary people who choose happiness and get it.In this it is a morality tale, par excellance.
Anyone who has ever reached out of despair with a rebound of delight, who has taken an old piece of cloth and thrown it in some transforming wrap over their head, or around their waist, as Connie does, remembers that triumph, so rare, but perfect brilliant touch.Suddenly, an old dress, has color and shape, bohemians, they are beyond the ordinary in fashion and finance.

There are no authorial statements here, Powell has her own transformative power, whereby sentences do indeed show, voluminously what she composed sparingly.Her genious for showing human instincts is beyond any of her peers.Perhaps the most stunning is her instinct for understandingthat ancient animal survival rule whereby we must hide our wounds and primal sufferings or risk in discovery- annihilation.There is none of the confessional self-absorption that was the legacy of the psychoanalytic fever, that was in its American childhood at the time she wrote the novel.

Anyone who has suffered and not hurt others, is rare indeed. The sublime experience between the two does not rely on inflicting pain upon others, a far more common means of elevating conditions of esteem.
The message, if I may, is in the true artistic gift that they benefitted from, but if spoken, would have broken the spell. They saw theTouilleries in an unweeded garden, the Volga in a brown shallow river, and in the unattractive, uncultured, midwestern town, they found a quaint village to delight in.

The physical conditions of life bore down upon their paradise and yet Connie and Blaine, prevailed, looking we are told through colored pains of glass, bringing the grey, unsympathetic world into prismmatic shimmering color.

It is a love poem to the artistic process that is a gift for life as much as technique with a brush or an instrument or a sentence. This contrasts effectively with her more cynical tales of the corrupted artist and the exploited audience.

A glorious book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Simply gorgeous.
Only Dawn Powell could create such an intimate, sorrowful portrayal of two thwarted artists in a smug little town that doesn't recognize their intelligence.Very sad, yet gently funny as well.Dawn Powell apparentlydidn't think this was one of her more successful books.It always amazesme how poorly some artists judge their work for this is one of her bestnovels.Read it and weep.

5-0 out of 5 stars An unforgettable read
This book has been well-summarized by the other reviewers.I can only second their recommendations and say that this book is spellbindingly written and contains two extended passages (I will leave it to otherreaders to find their own favorite parts)that are among the most brilliantwriting I have ever encountered.Just be warned that it will break yourheart.Now if only Steerforth would reissue her "Story of a CountryBoy" which I just found an ancient copy of and which is just asgood... ... Read more

18. Dance Night
by Dawn Powell
Paperback: 235 Pages (1999-01-01)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$4.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 188364271X
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Dance Night portrays working-class Lamptown, Ohio, at the turn of the century. It's a hardscrabble place, filled with bitter factory girls whose dreams are unattainable. Every Thursday is dance night at the Casino Dance Hall, where residents escape their workaday lives, if only for fleeting moments. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

4-0 out of 5 stars Dawn Powell at Her Best
I previously read Dawn Powell's The Golden Spur, which was a combination of Dorothy Parker's wit and Iris Murdoch's use of a multitude of characters, and liked it enough to purchase and read Dance Night.Of the two, Dance Night is, by far, the better.Powell has created two characters - Morry and Jen - whom you come to care about, while also accurately depicting small town life in the early 1900s and how it is to be young.Her female characters such as Morry's mother, Elsinore, and, particularly, Jen, are complex and well rounded, which is refreshing, given that the novel was written in 1930.Though it is not as humorous as The Golden Spur, Powell still utilizes her wit with occasional one-liners that are capable of making you laugh out loud.Definitely worth reading, and further proof that more of her novels should be reprinted.

5-0 out of 5 stars Coming of Age in Lamptown
Dawn Powell (1897-1965) received little attention in her lifetime, but her novels are now in print and accessible due to the critical efforts of Gore Vidal and Tim Page, among others.She is an "autobigraphical" writer, and her novels fall into two groups: 1. the earlier "Ohio" novels which are based on Powell's childhood and adolescence in small-town Ohio in the early 20th Century and 2. the later "New York novels which are heavily satirical and describe Greenwich Village where Powell spent most of her adult life.

Powell wrote "Dance Night" in 1930, and it is an early novel in the "Ohio" group.It describes the fictitous small-town of Lamptown, Ohio in the early 20th century.There are gritty pictures of the local bars and saloons and of the railroad men who frequented them. There a pictures of the factories which were the chief employers of both men and the young women. The book focuses on the life of the working class in Lamptown, with their cramped, limited ambitions and opportunities, their rickety homes, and their sexual repressions and liasions.(Books such as this remind me of George Gissing, a Victorian novelist who remains too little known, and who depicted somewhat similar scenes and people in London.)

The two primary characters in the novel are Morry Abott a young man on the verge of adulthood and Jen St. Clair, a young girl just beginning adolescence who has been adopted from an orphanage.The book is how they come of age, sexually and emotionally, and how they attempt in their own ways (including their frustrated relationship with each other) to leave Lamptown.Morry, in particular, seems based upon Powell herself (she generally uses male protagonists in her books that I have read) and the frustrations she experienced in the rural midwest and her dream of a life of glamor, freedom, and adventure (sexual and otherwise) in New York.

In the novel, Morry lives with his mother who runs a small woman's hat shop, the Bon Ton.The father is a travelling salesman and mostly absent.When he is present, things are very ugly.

Thetitle "Dance Night" derives from the chief social activity in Lamptown, the Thursday evening dances.Morry, his mother, and the young factory girls of Lamptown frequent the dances to flirt, dance, and arrange dates and sexual encounters.

There is a great deal of emphasis in the book on furtive, repressed sexual encounters between the young men and women of Lamptown.There is always a hope of escape -- then and now -- based primarily on the dream of sexual liberation.The book is also a story of economic change and ambition at the time of the beginning of the Depressions.The book shows the passing of chance and the attempt to make a quick dollar without thought or training.

The story is really within the American tradition of the coming of age novel-- of the young man finding himself.The book gives a memorable picture of Lamptown. But it leaves its main character Morry as he departs Lamptown in search of broader horizons and an uncertain future.This is an excellent, little-known American novel.

4-0 out of 5 stars American Classic
This novel of early 20th century Ohio deserves a place with the novels of Willa Cather and Theodore Dreiser. Unlike Dawn Powell's satirical New York novels, this is a straightforward and touching story of a young man growingup and growing out of a stifling small town. The story paints a wonderfulpicture of a simpler time in our country. This portrait, along withPowell's knack for characterization and interesting plot turns, make thebook a treasure.

4-0 out of 5 stars I COULDN'T PUT IT DOWN
Dawn Powell is without a doubt one of the most remarkable writers of this century.Anyone who wants to know how this country truly looked, sounded, and felt in the 30's, 40's & 50's owes it to themselves to stock up onher books.Her New York novels, like "The Locusts Have No King",can be almost savage in their bitingly hilarious portayals of life inmid-century Manhattan and Greenwich Village."Dance Night" issomething else, entirely.Powell brings the grubby town of Lamptown, Ohioto aching life; you won't soon forget her finely-etched characters andtheir desperate efforts to create some happiness among the cargo trains andfactory whistles and backsteet affairs that define the limits of theirlives at the dawn of the Great Depression. I can't recommend this bookhighly enough.Powell fans may want to order a copy of "The Best ofDawn Powell", as it contains "Dance Night", "Turn MagicWheel", and a collection of short stories.

4-0 out of 5 stars An excellent novel, but not her very best
The four stars are simply because, as a huge Dawn Powell fan, I feel that some of her other novels are a little more well rounded. Having said that, I feel that four stars for Dawn Powell is the equivilent of five stars foranyone else. Dance Night is an engaging and easy to read novel, withPowell's usual flair for nailing character types. I highly recommend thisnovel, but more importantly, I recommend all of Dawn Powell's works Younever develop too much compassion for the main characters, but the wit andinsight with which they are drawn is really what makes them so enjoyable.Do yourself a favor and start reading Dawn Powell today. ... Read more

19. The Bride's House
by Dawn Powell
Paperback: 187 Pages (1998-11)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$29.47
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1883642787
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars The Bride's House by Dawn Powell
There is a touch of the melodramatic to Powell's first important work and least well-received, a novel set in turn-of-the-century rural Ohio - but the darkness is sparked with Powell's unmistakeable genius. True, somepassages are florid and the prose rather purple, but there is absolutely noother way to tell so perfectly a tale of deception, betrayal, and fatesshortcircuited and lives barely endured. The Truelove family is almostgothic in Powell's portrayal, what with their supressed desires and outwardconformity to time and place, and inward turmoils worthy of any grandopera. Powell's strength lies in her many detailed characterizations, themain ones of which are an elderly woman at the end of her days, a middleaged housewife suffering with a secret threatening to destroy her, Vera, aprecocious young girl with a wisdom beyond her years, Sophie, the youngbride of the title who battles her loves for two men, and Anna, Sophie'santithesis, who upheaves the well-guarded secrets that eventually destroythe family. The twists and turns of the plot kept me reading late into thenight, and Powell's descriptions of time and place are provocative andweave a lasting spell. This book would be a tremendous introduction toPowell's ouvre, and is likely the truest to life of her many works,written, as it was, while the married Powell was involved with playwrightJohn Howard Lawson. ... Read more

20. Angels on Toast
by Dawn Powell
Paperback: 245 Pages (1996-07-02)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$4.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 188364240X
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Everyone in Angels on Toast is on the make: Lou Donovan, the entrepreneur who ricochets frantically between his well-connected current wife, his disreputable ex, and his dangerously greedy mistress; Trina Kameray, the exotic adventuress whose job title is as phony as her accent; and Truesdale, the man with the aristocratic manner, the $14 suit and the hyperactive eye for the main chance. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

3-0 out of 5 stars Insider Rediscovery
Gore Vidal's friendship with Dawn Powell explains the re-publication of several of her novels. It isn't because she is an unheralded Hemingway or Fitzgerald.

I didn't feel like I wasted my time reading "Angel on Toast," but I found the characters poorly differentiated so I often had to struggle to determine if I was reading about Lou Donovan and Jay Oliver, the hard drinking and womanizing main characters.

One of the reasons I read the novel was to get a feel for New York in the thirties and forties.However, much of the action took place elsewhere and I didn't get a strong feel of place except for the Hotel Ellery and the marginalized old ladies of the Bar and Grill.

In general, the novel feels like a few well-etched scenes only marginally connected by often vague characters.The well-etched scenes often display an insightful feel for the complexity of relationships in a time when the mass media was busy promoting a "Thin Man" view of hard-drinking but happily married couples.

There is something intriguing about Dawn Powell and her milieu.The good moments of this book give me hope that "The Golden Spur" or one of the other re-published novels will prove more satisfying.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Satire of Business
Dawn Powell published "Angels on Toast" in 1940 to generally favorable reviews but poor sales.She rewrote the book, shortening and softening its satire, in 1956 under the title "A Man's Affair".She also wrote a TV script based on the book called "You should have brought your mink".The book has been reissued several times, all in the original 1940 version.

When the book first appeared, the critic Diana Trilling wrote a negative review.She observed that Powell was a writer of great gifts and style who, in "Angels on Toast", had wasted her talents on utterly frivolous, valueless people and scenes.On reading the book, I can understand Trilling's reaction. The book isn't one of Powell's best, but its scenes are sharply-etched and entertaining.As I have frequently found in Powell's novels, the book works better in parts than as a whole, even though the story line of "Angels on Toast" is generally clear and coherent.

The story is basically a satire of American business in the later 1930s with the scene shifting back and forth from Chicago to New York City.The two main protagonists are businessmen, Lou Donovan and his best friend, a less successful businessman named Jay Oliver.The two characters are pretty well differentiated from each other although both remain one-dimensional.The activities of Lou and Jay can be summarized in three terms:moneymaking, drinking and wenching.As are virtually all the characters in the book, Lou and Jay are out for the main chance in their endless trips to New York.They engage in unending bouts of hard drinking.Their sexual affairs, and the deceits they paractice on their wives and mistresses take up at least as much time as the business and the booze.Jay's mistreess is a woman named Elsie while Lou is involved with a mysterious woman named Trina Kameray.Both give just as good as they get.It is difficult to think of a book where the entire cast of characters are crass, materialistic, on the make, without sense of value.Powell portrays them sharply.

I found the book less successful than Powell's other New York novels.I think this is because the book satirizes American business and Powell clearly has less sympathy with business than she does with the subjects of her satire in her other novels.Her other books generally deal with dissilusioned wannabe artists in Grenwich Village, with writers, nightclub entertainers, frustrated musicians, and writers resisting the tide of commercialism.Powell has knowledge of the lives of such people and sympathy with at least some of their ideals.This gives a touch of ambivalence and poignancy to the satire.But in "Angels on Toast", she shows no real knowledge and no sympathy to the world of business.This, I think, makes the satire shrill and too one-sided.Also, the business world is satirized in essentially the same terms as the various components of New York society Powell satirizes in her other books -- i.e. the characters are egotistical in the extreme, heavy drinkers (always), and sexually promiscuous and unfaithful.

Some of the individual scenes in the book are well-done.In particular, I enjoyed Powell's descriptions of a fading old New York Hotel, called the Ellery and its guests and the patrons at its bar.There are a few good scenes of train travel in the 1930's, and much sharp, punchy dialogue.The book held my interest.

The characters are crass and one-dimensional.Powell refers to some of her minor characters repeatedly by offensive nicknames such as "the snit", "the floozie" and "the punk", which certainly don't show much attempt at a sympathetic understanding of people.The book is sharp, cutting, and more so that Powell's other books, overwhelmingly negative towards its protagonists.

This book has its moments. The writing style and the details are enjoyable, but the satire is too one-dimensional and heavy-handed.Although the book is worth knowing, it is one of Dawn Powell's lesser efforts.

4-0 out of 5 stars Burned to a crisp!
Yet another example of Ms. Powell's scathing wit at play. The Angels in question are real Devils and whomever gets caught in their circle gets burned to a crisp. This is a witty tale of New York businessmen on themake, trying EVERY trick they know not to "rock the boat" withthier wives. Very entertaining read as you go along with these two rascalsthrough their adventures. You will end up despising and envying them forall they get away with!

4-0 out of 5 stars In the Company of Men
The camera rarely stops moving in this deftly wry tale of two self-serving businessmen and the wives and mistresses who continually trip them up. The narrative could easily have remained soap opera material were it not for Ms. Powell's generous eye for detail. The subtext splits the characters' heads wide open, and inside we find that the basic humanity of these big shots, bohemians, socialites and freaks goes all the way down to the well. Not quite comedy, not quite melodrama, not quite satire, not quite sure. Ms. Powell is a master at broadening emotional context with her scathing, loving wit. Preston Sturges would surely have been charmed ... Read more

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