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Turn, Magic Wheel

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  258 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
Dennis Orphen, in writing a novel, has stolen the life story of his friend, Effie Callingham, the former wife of a famous, Hemingway-like novelist, Andrew Callingham. Orphen’s betrayal is not the only one, nor the worst one, in this hilarious satire of the New York literary scene. (Powell personally considered this to be her best New York novel.) Powell takes revenge here ...more
ebook, 228 pages
Published November 8th 2011 by Steerforth (first published 1936)
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Nov 08, 2014 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This is my first experience of Dawn Powell's writing. Indeed, I'd not heard of her until I read Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy: A Lost Generation Love Story. A prolific novelist, short story writer and playwright, almost all of her works were out of print when she died in 1965. If this novel is anything to do by, she deserves to be better known.

Turn, Magic Wheel, which was published in 1936, is Powell's seventh novel. It centres on Dennis Orphen, a young novelist whose latest wo
Sep 04, 2015 Darcy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an excellent book... beautifully flawed characters longing for connection and being continually heartbroken yet still seeking fulfillment. Sounds a little bleak though the humanity in this story was ever present and captivating.
And the setting of New York City in the 1930s felt like another person in the book... Old New York City, glamorous and enrapturing and harrowing for the faint of heart.
Dawn Powell is a beautiful writer and one I will continue to re-visit.
Kim Fay
Oct 06, 2015 Kim Fay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've wanted to read Dawn Powell for years - one of those authors I was saving for a rainy day. When I joined a classics book club (I use that term loosely, since we've only met once in the past 6 months!), we chose Turn, Magic Wheel for our second book. Hemingway considered Dawn Powell the best writer of their generation (or so I've read), and she is pretty great. This novel will especially appeal to writers and those in the publishing industry. It's about a novelist, Dennis Orphen, who writes a ...more
Apr 26, 2009 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Dawn Powell. Love her. Love her. I don't know if it's because I read A Time to Be Born first or what, but I keep wanting every subsequent book of hers to be as explosively wonderful as that one. This one was the closest so far. It's particularly sharp if you have any relationships with writers or are a writer yourself. It's whip-smart and seemingly satirical of all the big boy writers of her era. Every time I read her I am flabbergasted again at her disappearance from historical memory as ...more
May 24, 2010 Katie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not as wonderful as A Time To Be Born, but funny and affecting as I expect Powell to be, with great descriptions like this one:

'Gieseking, the pianist, looked too big to be bullying such delicate melodies, he thought, though he tried to be very gentle with them. He crouched over the piano with his big hands cupping the keys as if a mouse might peep out of fist once he relaxed. Softly his fingers in ten little bedroom slippers tiptoed up and down Schumann, music became so diminished under his mic
Feb 03, 2014 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dawn Powell was a really incredible Jazz Age American author who is sadly rather overlooked now: a small-town Ohio girl who started writing as a teenager and who was, somewhat surprisingly given her origins and the time period, college-educated. She moved to New York City after college and became a successful writer, producing a dozen novels plus short stories, plays and screen-plays. Powell's keen eye for personalities and details of people and her deft hand at drafting characters that seem ver ...more
Apr 27, 2009 Alana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book from a coworker as a gift nearly three years ago. Respecting both her and her taste, I was ready for a literary gem. Well, unsurprisingly, I intended to read it right away and then three years went by before it popped into my head for some reason or another (most likely because of the rather delightful cover which is rather memorable in my mind), and I started reading it without glancing at the back cover for a reminder as to its topic. My opinion holds firm -- this was quit ...more
Iris Blasi
Jun 22, 2015 Iris Blasi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dawn Powell's own personal favorite of her New York novels, I loved this scathing send-up of the literary establishment. In the book, Dennis Orphen has written a novel loosely based on his friend Effie Callingham's life as a former wife of a Hemingway-esque character. At turns heartbreaking and hilarious, the book is a crystalline portrayal of the New York of yesteryear, with observations about artistic aspiration and the literary life that are startlingly contemporary.
The jacket of this book calls it a "hilarious satire of the New York literary scene." I actually found much of the story heart-breaking---Effie's storyline, in particuler, made me cry. But, that said, it is well-written, and often witty---a party scene near the end is especially entertaining. And the characters develop very nicely---I was not so sure that I gave a hoot about Dennis at the beginning, but he grew into a real and interesting person before the novel was over. There is a really nice ...more
Sep 04, 2009 Grace rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a satire of the New York literary scene, circa 1925 or so, and I'm glad I read it on that basis alone. However, the entire novel seemed a little too self-conscious, and I feel like there should be a rule against introducing new characters when you're 75 percent through the book. There were some choice descriptions, though. "Tony was extremely handsome in a hungry, girlish, petulant way, that he was tall, lean, and rubbery as though he might snap back to the little spoiled child he was at ...more
Dec 21, 2014 Whitney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book because Rory Gilmore recommended it.
Mary Buzard
Aug 03, 2015 Mary Buzard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
SO witty! Dawn Powell, where have you been all my life?
Matthew Gallaway
Unlike the first two Dawn Powell novels I read, which were set in Ohio, this one is set in New York City and focuses on book publishing. It's difficult to classify stylistically because Powell moves between lyrical and satirical, often quite abruptly -- and I tended to prefer the former -- but she captures the manic insanity of the publishing business and those who are drawn to it as writers and subjects.
May 15, 2010 zan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
So glad to have discovered Dawn Powell, and now I totally want to read everything she's written.

This is where this star-rating system has totally failed me, though: everything is 4 or 5 stars now. If I like it enough to finish it, it should be at least 3 stars. But who's to say I won't like another of her books better? And my 5 stars may be your 3?

Anyhow, great book.
Christopher Sutch
This is a little gem of a novel, Powell's seventh, and the author finally found her voice here. The satire of 1930s New York artistic life is scathing and hilarious, and the human elements are often touching and incredibly sad. Powell had a gift for very creative and original descriptive metaphors, and the entire work is beautifully written.
Mar 30, 2016 Erik rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was very impressed with this one. Wonderfully sharp-witted, yet surprisingly heartrending at times (e.g., the last chapter of Part II ["The Erlking"]). Her descriptions of 1930s NYC and the discontented, haughty, conniving, desperate people who inhabit it are marvelous. There will definitely be more Powell-reading in my future!
Nathan Oates
Mar 18, 2008 Nathan Oates rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An engaging, if almost overwhelmingly bleak, satire about New York literary life. As with many books driven by the interior conflicts of its characters, the novel is best early on and tends to loose energy as it struggles to assemble its wide cast into a compelling plot. But the writing, at times, is hilarious and delightful.
Jun 05, 2013 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A pretty interesting pastiche of 1930's literary society, focusing on the ex-wife of a very Hemingway-esque author. It's very good and often fun, but you wish the characters joined in on your pleasure.
Nov 27, 2012 prescribed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is hilarious. Absolutely ahead of its time. Witty and beautifully written. Wonderful attention to objects and details of the era. I think I even like Dawn over Virginia. Yikes!
Sep 29, 2007 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fun read. A satire of the US literary scene in the 30s, there's a Hemingway-esque character, one of his ex-wives. The writing has a very urban, New York feel to it.
This was an easy read and it felt really gosspiy. Like I was reading an old-timey US Weekley, but a well written US Weekly, if one can imagine such a thing.
Mar 16, 2013 Katherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good satire on the literary world, and all the complications that arise when you base your novel on a real person.
Richard Anderson
Aug 06, 2012 Richard Anderson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First of the "new style" Powells. Dated, but some good sequences, including a caricatured Hemingway.
May 05, 2014 Christy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2009
I'm leaving Goodreads. This review is now available on LibraryThing, user name CSRodgers.

Jun 22, 2008 Noreen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

Was curious about Dawn Powell and selected this book for our Literarians group at the Merc.
Satirical and smart. Funny and compelling. Good... just not great.
Claire S
Apr 29, 2009 Claire S marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Claire by: noted in her other one..
To read first of hers..
Dec 25, 2012 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Funny with plenty of pathos
Dec 26, 2010 Ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a fabulous writer.
Tarini Misra
Tarini Misra marked it as to-read
Oct 21, 2016
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Dawn Powell (November 28, 1896 – November 14, 1965) was an American writer of satirical novels and stories that manage to be barbed and sensitive at the same time.

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“Satire is people as they are; romanticism people as they would like to be; realism people as they seem with their insides left out.” 1 likes
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