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The Locusts Have No King

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  316 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
Alternate-cover edition for ISBN ISBN 1883642426 / 9781883642426 is located here: The Locusts Have No King

No one has satirized New York society quite like Dawn Powell, and in this classic novel she turns her sharp eye and stinging wit on the literary world, and "identifies every sort of publishing type with the patience of a pathologist removing organs for inspection." Fr
Paperback, 303 pages
Published June 1st 1998 by Steerforth Press (first published 1948)
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Nov 17, 2015 Mala rated it really liked it
Recommended to Mala by: Gregsamsa
Dr. Johnson and Mr. Pope would've been proud of Dawn Powell – she does satire that well!
Solid writing here but not experimental - a conventional format with a beginning, middle, and end. Surprisingly, despite such readability; Dawn Powell is vastly underread, the reason being she alienated the fiction-consuming middle class by exposing & mocking their venal lives. In her own words:
"You both confuse and anger people if you satirize the middle class. It is considered jolly and good-humored to
Richard Derus
May 08, 2013 Richard Derus rated it really liked it
Book Circle Reads 75

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: No one has satirized New York society quite like Dawn Powell, and in this classic novel she turns her sharp eye and stinging wit on the literary world, and "identifies every sort of publishing type with the patience of a pathologist removing organs for inspection."

Frederick Olliver, an obscure historian and writer, is having an affair with the restively married, beautiful, and hugely successful playwright, Lyle Gaynor. Powell sets a see-
Dawn Powell is one of those authors I have found myself collecting over the years, but hadn't read yet, and wasn't sure when to start... or where to start. At the beginning of her bibliography? At the end, and work backwards? Start with her diaries or her fiction?

I started reading this right after finishing Dorothy Parker. They have the same initials! They're also known for their sarcasm and sardonic humor. Except, for some reason, Parker gained popularity and Powell... well, not many people hav
Sep 09, 2016 A rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2010
"Jay McInerney meets Carrie Bradshaw for the Mad Men era" would surely be the publicist's pitch if Dawn Powell's weighty novel about the Greenwich Village literary whirl of the 40s were first published today. The description is not inaccurate: Powell prefigures SATC's breathless, enthusiastic chronicling of the cocktail-swilling tribes of Manhattan, and her writing is drenched in a face-disfiguringly acid wit so brutal even McInerney would blush.

But this satire offers something more profound --
Oct 11, 2015 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, classics
This is another in my series of underappreciated classics this year, and I ended up with decidedly mixed feelings about this Dawn Powell novel.

On the one hand, there is no doubting her gifts as a writer and as a satirist. There is almost no part of post-WWII New York society that doesn't get skewered or at least nicked by her sardonic wit and her exploration of the mostly self-absorbed maneuverings of the men and women who mix business and the arts and drinking (lots and lots of drinking).

But ho
Jim Leckband
Sep 03, 2012 Jim Leckband rated it liked it
There are a set of authors whose characters are cherished playmates in the author's novels, saying witty bon mots or overcoming sturdy obstacles the author has constructed in their way. Then there are authors who have characters that are created with a sneer on the author's face. Authors I have read that tend to do this include Muriel Spark and Vladimir Nabokov, and now Dawn Powell.

The publishing world after World War II must have been a backbiting hothouse - a hothouse complete with swarming lo
Rebecca F.
Nov 25, 2007 Rebecca F. rated it liked it
This writer was completely unknown to me when I started reading this book. I came away from the book with an incredibly vivid picture in my mind of the "party scene" of another era - New York socialites of the '20s/'30s. Powell's portrayal of her characters shows a remarkable skill in observing and interpreting the many delusions, mind games and inner conflicts common in people who are unfulfilled in life. There is something twisted and menacing about all her characters, yet they all come across ...more
Oct 11, 2011 GoldGato rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, spring
Dawn Powell writes of New York City at its very peak, post-WWII, mid-20th century. Skyscrapers, badass automobiles, Radio City Music Hall, cafeterias. I swear that when you read this book, you'll hear the loud honking of the yellow taxicabs, you'll see the bright flashing neon lights of Broadway, you'll feel the surge of humanity walking with you on an overflowing sidewalk.

Isn't that what a well-written book accomplishes? The feat of placing you in a time and place you were born too late to expe
Ted Burke
Sep 02, 2011 Ted Burke rated it it was amazing
A New York comedy of manners set in the Forties, it concerns a married couple comprised of a famous playwright and her husband, an academic who labors at his specialty in obscurity. Powell is one of the better comic writers we've had --a spikier Edith Wharton, shall we say--who provides momentum, atmosphere and rich, crackling dialogue in this many -charactered satire. This would be the sort of novel Tom Wolfe has been trying to write for years. We have here a situation where the fortunes of fam ...more
Apr 26, 2012 Suzanne marked it as did-not-finish
I finally figured out what was bugging me about this book. While there were some really good patches of writing at times, other places, not so much. On page 130, consecutive sentences read like this ---- and this pattern often went on for several pages at a time-- “Dodo liked to . . . . . Frederick was glad . . . Dodo was vaguely irritated . . . She teased him by demanding . . . Frederick was inclined . . . .Other times he found himself . . . . He needed consolation . . . Frederick wished . . . ...more
Christopher Sutch
Nov 09, 2012 Christopher Sutch rated it it was amazing
Powell's later novels only increase in complexity, skill in handling multiple characters and subplots, and, her forte, long-ish descriptive paragraphs. This book is ridiculous and hilariously funny, and the punch that Powell manages at the end, putting this all-too human comedy in a wider sociopolitical post-World War II context with the detonation of the atom bombs on the Bikini atoll is amazing and moving. What a tremendous talent Dawn Powell possessed.
Nov 02, 2015 Andrea rated it really liked it
Shelves: classic
Frederick Olliver and Lyle Gaynor are the love story interests in this New York City satire of literary society. Ms. Powell seems to find her characters most interesting when they are unhappy, and she seems to enjoy skewering the different types of society hanger-ons that are part of that society. This was biting satire mixed with some pathos.
Mark Feltskog
Dec 16, 2016 Mark Feltskog rated it it was amazing
This is my introduction to the sublime world of Dawn Powell, and I wish that this book's publisher--Steerforth Press--had dedicated more time to giving it a proper copyediting. I don't know what goes into the production process when a book is reprinted, but repairing spelling and syntax faults seems like as good a place as any to prioritize. Though this book is rife with spelling errors, I cite for you this unintentional howler, marring an otherwise stunning sentence:

" the corner tottered a
Apr 26, 2009 Bridget rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Those who enjoy satire, or are interested in NYC publishing in the 1940s
Shelves: 2009-reads
I had read a magazine article about Dawn Powell’s writing a couple of years ago, and was curious to read some of her work. I’d never heard of her, and what I had read in the article said that she wrote wonderful satire, much of the time about the publishing world in New York during the 1940s. That combination seemed like a winner to me.

This book is the story of Frederick Olliver, a writer who, at the beginning of the book is somewhat of a recluse, who has had a few things published (but not thin
Glen Engel-Cox
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 Ha
Jun 15, 2010 Tim rated it really liked it
Dawn Powell's The Locusts Have No King depicts New York nightlife in the 40s. It is longer then it should be, drawing in too many characters, but every time I became impatient with it, Powell added another one of her wonderful descriptions. "Four hours had seemed a small price to pay for a roof over his head with the rest of the week free for his own work, but after a while he had a desperate feeling that he was being bribed to distribute cancer. The only assuaging thought was that no one in his ...more
Sep 24, 2011 mstan rated it really liked it
This was a surprisingly lovely read about 1940s New York City. In the glittering bars and literary society, a couple - Frederick Olliver (writer) and Lyle Gaynor (playwright) - conduct their highbrow love affair with gifts of well-pressed shirts, stolen glances, brief embraces. Resentment and jealousy soon intrude with the arrival of the most disgusting female character ever (so crudely yet skilfully drawn that she is surely meant to be a brilliant caricature of the self-styled femme fatale) - D ...more
Sep 08, 2009 Elliott rated it really liked it
In her diaries, Dawn Powell wrote that " . . . the basis of comedy is man's helplessness against vanity (the vanity of love, greed, lust, power)." She deals with this vanity in her novel The Locusts Have No King. Powell writes with great humor and sophistication in this novel about how love and betrayal, art and ambition collide. It's a fun read as she writes of Frederick Olliver, a medieval history writer, and his affair with the far more successful playwright Lyle Gaynor. Olliver navigates his ...more
Dec 24, 2008 Bob rated it really liked it
A novel of post WWII Manhattan literary life back when the (West) Village was the place to be. If you have ever followed the antics at the meeting points of the literati and the wealthy in the pages of the The New York Observer and want a dose of plus ça change, this will provide it, with literary flair.
The romantic entanglements that tend fuel such stories are, in this case, painful to observe - one almost can't believe the characters are so emotionally self-destructive but people often are. Th
Nov 26, 2015 Lauren rated it really liked it
Dawn Powell is to the mid 20th century what Edith Wharton was to the turn of the century. She writes about people and their relationships and the roles men and women play in their societies. I liked the main characters without always liking what they did. Lyle and Frederick are fully realized people and watching them break up and make up is captivating. But the best part of the story is all the minor characters and their part in the story. Powell has an excellent way with description and detail ...more
Aug 04, 2009 Nan rated it it was amazing
Absolutely marvelous book about the willfully doomed romance between Lyle, a successful playwright married to her much older co-writer, and Frederick, a struggling writer who's artistic purity is sullied a little too easily. Wonderful portrait of New York in the 40s; it's like having a New Yorker mag of the period come to life. Both major and minor characters are wonderful and rich.

Dawn Powell totally rocks. Much better writer than Dorothy Parker, and while she can be cruel, she is never heartl
Sep 04, 2012 Kate rated it liked it

This was ok. I love books set in New York and I loved the 40s setting. The interplay between the characters has that delicious frustration where you can see misunderstandings happening but are powerless to stop them. Nicely encapsulates the power struggle of modern relationships and the pressures of society. But it is also too long and never really grabbed me in the way that it could have.
Dec 20, 2007 Anne rated it liked it
This is the second Dawn Powell book I've read, and picked up because of the first. While the satire was intellectually enjoyable, it ultimately got tiresome about two thirds of the way through. The book could have been shorter, as I only care so much about making fun of the New York publshing scene. The end was satisfying.
Mar 30, 2008 Melissa rated it really liked it
The best way to think of Powell is as a lesser known Dorothy Parker. Witty and funny, writing in the post-war era. Her books are great social commentaries, but I am annoyed as the recent editions have not been edited well. Lots of annoying typos. I was hoping to add her books to my collection, but I think I'll wait until better editions come out.
Mar 21, 2012 Diane rated it liked it
Supposed to be one of Powell's best, but got bored with the satirical portrait of striving writers, hopping from bar to bar, bed to bed. Disappointed that, just as in A Time to Be Born, the impediments to the lovers disappear so that they can be united in the end.
Jul 14, 2008 Mark rated it really liked it
what a great book. like nothing i've read before. like literary cocaine. it's pretty rare in a satire when you find yourself really caring about the characters. also suprising that something this sharp edged isn't bitter and the ending is a terrific surprise. love the last line.
Apr 28, 2009 Caitlin rated it really liked it
A satire that's actually funny. Set in 1950s new york, very realistic take on career jealously, social climbing, insecure journalists/academics. You'd think it'd be more dated but still rings quite true.
May 07, 2016 Julie rated it liked it
I rather enjoyed this book. It took a while to get into, with its broad range of characters, but the central love story is quite rewarding.
Rachel Avery
Oct 25, 2007 Rachel Avery rated it really liked it
Gore Vidal has been pimping her books for years; this is the first I've checked out. Excellent choice if you like mid-20th century Americans. I understand she was Papa Hemingway's favorite.
Sep 04, 2009 Camille rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
This is my first experience with Dawn Powell and I'm in love with her writing style. Will definitely be checking out more of her work.
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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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“Bad weather friends were as undependable as fair weather friends in a crisis, the relationship in both cases being dictated by conditions of fortune instead of mutual tastes.” 2 likes
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