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Turn, Magic Wheel

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  200 ratings  ·  22 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
Paperback, 228 pages
Published January 1st 1999 by Steerforth (first published 1936)
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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
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...more
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
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
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
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
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 5 of 5 stars
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.
Nathan Oates
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.
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.
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!
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.
Very good satire on the literary world, and all the complications that arise when you base your novel on a real person.
Richard Anderson
First of the "new style" Powells. Dated, but some good sequences, including a caricatured Hemingway.
I'm leaving Goodreads. This review is now available on LibraryThing, user name CSRodgers.


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
Recommended to Claire by: noted in her other one..
To read first of hers..
Funny with plenty of pathos
What a fabulous writer.
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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.

More about Dawn Powell...
A Time to Be Born The Wicked Pavilion The Locusts Have No King My Home is Far Away Novels 1930-1942: Dance Night / Come Back to Sorrento / Turn, Magic Wheel / Angels on Toast / A Time to Be Born (Library of America #126)

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