Dawn Powell: Novels 1944-1962 (Library of America)by Dawn Powell
American literature has known few writers capable of the comic elan and full-bodied portraiture that abound in the novels of Dawn Powell. Yet for decades after her death, Powell's work was out of print, cherished only by a small band of admirers. Only recently has there been a rediscovery of the writer Gore Vidal calls "our best comic novelist," and whom Edmund Wilson considered to be "on a level with Anthony Powell, Evelyn Waugh, and Muriel Spark." In a two-volume set, The Library of America presents the best of Powell's quirky, often hilarious, sometimes deeply moving fiction.
Dawn Powell -- a vital part of literary Greenwich Village from the 1920s through the 1960s -- was the observant chronicler of two very different worlds: the small-town Ohio where she grew up and the sophisticated Manhattan where she lived for nearly fifty years. If her Ohio novels are more melancholy and compassionate, her Manhattan novels, exuberant and incisive, sparkle with a cast of writers, show people, businessmen, and hangers-on -- all caught with Powell's uniquely sharp yet compassionate eye. A playful satirist, an unsentimental observer of failed hopes and misguided longings, Dawn Powell is a literary rediscovery of rare importance.
My Home Is Far Away (1944), the last of Powell's Ohio novels, is a fictionalized memoir of her difficult childhood. With The Locusts Have No King (1948), the story of a scholar's unexpected brush with the temptations of celebrity and riches, Powell resumed her lifelong dissection of New York's pretensions and glamour. The first of three brilliant postwar satires, it was followed by The Wicked Pavilion (1954), a novel that lays bare its characters' illusions about love and success against the backdrop of the Cafe Julien, a relic of a bygone era in the history of Greenwich Village. The volume concludes with Powell's final novel, The Golden Spur (1962), in which she drew on her time spent among painters at the famed Cedar Tavern for an affectionate if pointed satire on Manhattan's art world.
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