2016: A Dance to the Music of Time discussion

The Military Philosophers (A Dance to the Music of Time, #9)
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message 1: by Sunny (new) - added it

Sunny (travellingsunny) | 49 comments Mod
For discussion or comments about book nine...


Darwin8u | 12 comments Does anyone else (who has read this and Vollmann) think the first couple paragraphs of this book resembles (in a less funky and mad way) the opening section of Europe Central?

"from the secret radio Spider, calling and testing in the small hours..."

"Endemic as ghouls in an Arabian cemetery, harassed aggressive shades lingered for ever in such cells to impose on each successive inmate their preoccupations and anxieties, crowding him from floor and bed, invading and distorting dreams. Once in a way a teleprinter would break down, suddenly ceasing to belch forth its broad paper shaft, the column instead crumpling to ta stop in mid-air like waters of a frozen cataract."


message 3: by Sue (new)

Sue | 85 comments Europe Central is on my list. Should I move it up? Perhaps after Powell?


Darwin8u | 12 comments Sue wrote: "Europe Central is on my list. Should I move it up? Perhaps after Powell?"

IT was fantastic. But it starts out, first chapter, STEEL IN MOTION, with a black telephone/Signal Corps octopus vibrating, ringing, somnambulating, sleepwalking, eavesdropping, gloating as Europe Central buzzes.


message 5: by Sue (new)

Sue | 85 comments Darwin8u wrote: "Sue wrote: "Europe Central is on my list. Should I move it up? Perhaps after Powell?"

IT was fantastic. But it starts out, first chapter, STEEL IN MOTION, with a black telephone/Signal Corps octop..."


I do still need to finish Against The Day which has become a bit side-tracked as much as I like it. So I think Vollmann will come after this Pynchon and Powell!


Darwin8u | 12 comments Sue wrote: "Darwin8u wrote: "Sue wrote: "Europe Central is on my list. Should I move it up? Perhaps after Powell?"

IT was fantastic. But it starts out, first chapter, STEEL IN MOTION, with a black telephone/S..."


That sounds like a wordy plan indeed.


message 7: by Sue (new)

Sue | 85 comments Darwin8u wrote: "Sue wrote: "Darwin8u wrote: "Sue wrote: "Europe Central is on my list. Should I move it up? Perhaps after Powell?"

IT was fantastic. But it starts out, first chapter, STEEL IN MOTION, with a black..."


Oh yes... I'm just finishing up The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk / Palace of Desire / Sugar Street. This has been a very wordy year. I was thinking of some Trollope for next year too. Somehow his words seem to flow in a different way for me.


message 8: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 106 comments I do like a good character description. This one of Major Finn is brilliant:
Short, square, cleanshaven, his head seemed carved out of an elephant's tusk, the whole massive cone of ivory left more or less complete in its original shape, eyes hollowed out deep in the roots, the rest of the protuberance accommodating his other features, terminating in a perfectly colossal nose that stretched directly forward from the totally bald cranium. The nose was preposterous, grotesque, slapstick, a mask from a Goldoni comedy.



Darwin8u | 12 comments Jonathan wrote: "I do like a good character description. This one of Major Finn is brilliant:Short, square, cleanshaven, his head seemed carved out of an elephant's tusk, the whole massive cone of ivory left more o..."

Yeah, I liked that a lot too.


message 10: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 106 comments I'm just at the point where Nick is meeting Blackhead - a great name for another great character.


Nigeyb Immediately preceded by The Valley of Bones (1964) and The Soldier's Art (1966), The Military Philosophers (1968) concludes the three books which cover the World War 2 years. These three books are right up there with Sword of Honour by Evelyn Waugh - there is, as you probably realise, no higher accolade.

In this volume, narrator Nick is now working for Allied Liaison, as Pennistone's assistant under Lieutenant Colonel Finn, responsible for relationships with Allied and neutral military missions in London which revealed an aspect of World War 2 that I had never really considered before and which also heralds the introduction of many new characters.

In addition to the new characters, we also encounter many familiar characters from previous volumes, and The Military Philosophers contains dramatic new developments for many of them.

Despite the inevitable and predictable tragedies that result from the war years, the book also contains some splendid humour, not least the marvellous description of uber-bureaucrat Mr Blackhead, and his superlative bureaucratic obstructionism. What a delight. I had to read the pages aloud to savour every nuance.

Perhaps the most interesting new character is Pamela Flitton, the niece of Charles Stringham, who is the ultimate femme fatale and who makes some fascinating liaisons throughout the book and is responsible for many of the book's most memorable moments.

The books ends with a victory service at St. Paul's cathedral, to mark the end of the War, shortly after which Nick Jenkins is demobbed. Having now read nine of the twelve books I cannot wait to see what peacetime has in store for the characters that feature in the A Dance to the Music of Time series.

As with every other book in the A Dance to the Music of Time series, The Military Philosophers is beautifully written and a multi-faceted story that both delights and intrigues.

5/5


message 12: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 106 comments Clash of the Titans: Mrs Erdleigh v Pamela Flitton. Who will survive?


message 13: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 106 comments Well, Mrs Erdleigh (remember: she was the lady who told Uncle Giles's fortune at the Ufford back in Vol. 3) reads Flitton's palm and, curiously, causes her to laugh - something Jenkins hadn't witnessed before. Anyway Mrs Erdleigh returns to her room via a lift:
She glided away towards the lift, which seemed hardly needed, with its earthly and mechanical paraphernalia, to bear her up to the higher levels.
Mrs Erdleigh does seem to live on a different plane than the others.


message 14: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 106 comments And another great character description in this volume; this time of Ted Jeavons:
Jeavon's thick dark hair, with its ridges of corkscrew curls, had now turned quite white, the Charlie Chaplin moustache remaining black. This combination of tones for some reason gave him an oddly Italian appearance, enhanced by blue overalls, obscurely suggesting a railway porter at a station in Italy.



message 15: by Teresa (new)

Teresa Jonathan wrote: "Clash of the Titans: Mrs Erdleigh v Pamela Flitton. Who will survive?"

I've only just gotten to their meeting now; but f I were a betting person, I'd bet on Mrs Erdleigh.

What do you think of the lengthy Proust passage that was quoted shortly beforehand? I was discussing this with someone off-group and I can only agree with him that, as the Proust contains a couple of ridiculously long sentences, Powell was purposely contrasting his narrative to La recherche du temp perdu.


Algernon (Darth Anyan) | 44 comments I only started this morning, looking in the opening scene for the usual metaphor for time remembered. All I got is some reference to Wagnerian opera. I guess it will be explained later on. Still fun to look at an officer and see a goblin working on the Nibelungen Ring.


message 17: by Jonathan (last edited Sep 03, 2016 08:51AM) (new)

Jonathan | 106 comments Teresa wrote: "What do you think of the lengthy Proust passage that was quoted shortly beforehand? "

I thought it seemed a bit out of place and a bit unusual to suddenly quote a large section from Proust. I guess that Powell's work is often compared to Proust's (I have done so myself) and maybe, as you mentioned, he was trying to show the difference in style.

On the other hand I do think that people are justified in comparing Powell & Proust as there are similarities. I like the fact that Powell doesn't try to deny any knowledge of, or belittle, Proust's work. Powell doesn't mention in the book whether this was his (er, I mean Jenkin's) first read of ISOLT or whether he'd read it before.

(view spoiler)


message 18: by Teresa (new)

Teresa Jonathan wrote: "Powell doesn't mention in the book whether this was his (er, I mean Jenkin's) first read of ISOLT or whether he'd read it before."

Based on the section I read last night with all the references to the Proustian characters, etc. in a certain place, I would surmise that he's at least read the whole series through.

I didn't look at your spoiler yet, but does it refer to the place I mentioned above in a more specific way?


message 19: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 106 comments Yes Teresa, the spoiler mentions the place he visits. I was aware that we're all at different points in the book and didn't want to ruin anything. There's a big revelation at the start of ch. 5!


message 20: by Teresa (new)

Teresa The description of the abandoned 'floating harbor' (just a bit later in Chapter 4) seemed Proustian to me as well, reminiscent of a description of an Elstir painting.

I should get to the Chapter 5 reveal at least by tonight!


message 21: by Sue (new)

Sue | 85 comments Guess I'd better get going...I'm behind in starting this month, but definitely intrigued.


message 22: by Teresa (last edited Sep 04, 2016 10:02PM) (new)

Teresa I finished last night and I feel there was both more of a narratorial distance and less of one in this volume: near the end Powell uses quite a number of times phrases like "one feels" etc. in places where any other writer might use "I feel" etc. But then a bit earlier there's a paragraph about how and why he dislikes one of the characters (view spoiler) so immensely. Both instances stood out to me and the latter as particularly uncharacteristic, though completely justified.

Oh, and after reading the 'Proust passage' one ;) might want to read the discussion of it here: https://picturesinpowell.com/ix-the-m... . (view spoiler)


message 23: by Sue (new)

Sue | 85 comments I have begun and feel that the phrase "in media res" was created for the feeling of the first chapter and being thrown into that new posting. Such a different feel to the setting and to the writing, to Nick himself. He feels a bit more distant here, perhaps because the whole set up is so alien.


Diane Barnes I'm starting today.


message 25: by Teresa (new)

Teresa Teresa wrote: "I finished last night and I feel there was both more of a narratorial distance and less of one in this volume: near the end Powell uses quite a number of times phrases like "one feels" etc. in plac..."

I also noticed the relatively few times the narrator's called Nick in this volume, because of his being mostly called 'Nicholas'', not something I remember reading at all in previous volumes.


message 26: by Sue (new)

Sue | 85 comments Teresa wrote: "Teresa wrote: "I finished last night and I feel there was both more of a narratorial distance and less of one in this volume: near the end Powell uses quite a number of times phrases like "one feel..."

I'm only near the beginning, Teresa, but I wonder if this is part of what seems to me to be this "alien" setting.


message 27: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 106 comments Teresa wrote: "I finished last night and I feel there was both more of a narratorial distance and less of one in this volume: near the end Powell uses quite a number of times phrases like "one feels" etc. in plac..."

I can't say that I noticed a more distant feeeling from the narrator but then I find him quite distant anyway as at times he seems to be quite a ghostly figure.

it may all seem a bit more formal because he's in a work/army environment. In previous volumes we'd only really encountered Nick amongst friends and family.


message 28: by Sue (new)

Sue | 85 comments Jonathan wrote: "Teresa wrote: "I finished last night and I feel there was both more of a narratorial distance and less of one in this volume: near the end Powell uses quite a number of times phrases like "one feel..."

And this setting is among a more security conscious set too, at least to the point I'm reading, which may add to the distance feeling. And everyone seems to be hiding parts of themselves, trying to create the create the correct persona for the higher ups. Though I don't detect that particularly in Nick hiself.


message 29: by Teresa (new)

Teresa Jonathan wrote: "I can't say that I noticed a more distant feeeling from the narrator but then I find him quite distant anyway as at times he seems to be quite a ghostly figure.

it may all seem a bit more formal because he's in a work/army environment. In previous volumes we'd only really encountered Nick amongst friends and family.."


After his impassioned paragraph against Odo Stevens, it was the switching to "one" that made me feel that way; so I felt it quite later in the book, Sue -- can't say I felt it in the beginning.

Yes, I agree, Jonathan, as it is the 'new' characters in the military that call him Nicholas, not Nick; though even Widmerpool has switched to Nicholas -- I can't swear to it, but I believe in previous novels, W. called the narrator Nick.


message 30: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 106 comments Teresa wrote: "even Widmerpool has switched to Nicholas -- I can't swear to it, but I believe in previous novels, W. called the narrator Nick. ."

You may well be correct... I just didn't notice it. :-) Of course Widmerpool is a higher rank than Nick so maybe he feels that even in more social situations he should be more formal - and Widmerpool probably prefers that anyway.

I think Nick (as narrator) did mention at some point on all this formality during wartime but I can't swear to it.


Diane Barnes "A great illusion is that government is carried on by an infallible, incorruptible machine,' Pennistone said 'Officials--all officials, of all governments--are just as capable of behaving in an irregular manner as anyone else. In fact, they have the additional advantage of being able to assuage their conscience, if they happen to own one, by assuring themselves it's all for the country's good."

The only difference between then and now being that it is no longer an illusion.


Janet (goodreadscomjanetj) | 29 comments I really enjoyed the section describing Mr. Blackhead and his "bureaucratic obstuctionism".

Nick's reaction to Pamela Flitton, in his second ride in the car with her, "it was clear this AT possessed in a high degree that power which all women - some men - command to a greater or lesser extent when in the mood, of projecting round them a sense of vast resentment" seemed misogynistic to me. I have not felt that in his treatment of some other women in this book who were unlikable, such as Audrey Mcclintock, but this sentence stuck out.


message 33: by Teresa (new)

Teresa Janet wrote: "Nick's reaction to Pamela Flitton, in his second ride in the car with her, "it was clear this AT possessed in a high degree that power which all women - some men - command to a greater or lesser extent when in the mood, of projecting round them a sense of vast resentment" seemed misogynistic to me..."

It stuck out for me too, Janet. I always try to remember when/if it's a different time period and mindset; but as you said, he hadn't come across that way before.


message 34: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 106 comments That quote stood out for me as well as it immediately brought to mind a certain type of person. I found the 'all women' a bit strange.


Renee M | 38 comments Possibly an indication of his marriage falling apart? You know, applying negativity to all women because he's unhappy with the primary woman in his life.

Honestly, as soon as Jean Templar's daughter showed up, I kept thinking... Well... "I bet that'll be Nick's next love interest. Blek! I hope Powell doesn't go with something so prosaic."


Diane Barnes I always thought that Sunny Farebrother was a much older man, since he was a friend of Peter Templer's father, but this book make him seem like a contemporary of Nick's. Anyone else get that, or am I just missing something? And Jeavon is only 50, I had him pegged as a much older man as well.


message 37: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 106 comments Seeing your note, Renee, about Jean's daughter reminds me that there is a similar confusion at the end of Proust's ISOLT with Gilberte and her daughter. What with all the comments on Proust in this volume I can only assume it's deliberate.


message 38: by Teresa (last edited Sep 06, 2016 10:34AM) (new)

Teresa Diane wrote: "Anyone else get that, or am I just missing something? And Jeavon is only 50, I had him pegged as a much older man as well. "

No, I didn't get that. I can't remember right now, but I believe there were other indications about Sunny being older. But as to Jeavons, yes -- by his descriptions, I thought he was much older.


Diane Barnes I finished last night. Loved the final pages which circled around to his days attending dances as a young man. When he mentioned at the end that the country was exhausted from the war, I felt that same exhaustion, and will be glad to find out what happens next to our much older and more experienced Nick and company.


Renee M | 38 comments I've lost track. How old is Nick now? About 35?


message 41: by Teresa (last edited Sep 07, 2016 07:57PM) (new)

Teresa Renee wrote: "I've lost track. How old is Nick now? About 35?"

I think that's right. Something I read the other night signaled that very number in my head.


Janet (goodreadscomjanetj) | 29 comments According to the Anthony Powell Society http://www.anthonypowell.org/home.php... Nick was in his last year of school (before going to the university) in 1921/22 so I would assume he was 18 then and thus born in 1904. Since it is now 1945(at the end of the book) he must be closer to 41.


Diane Barnes I remember in the childhood sequence that he was 10 when his father went to the first World War, so 1904 would be about right as a birth date.


message 44: by Algernon (Darth Anyan) (last edited Sep 19, 2016 06:43AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Algernon (Darth Anyan) | 44 comments I'm finally finished.
Two scenes that haven't been discusses yet stood out for me, underlining the transformation of Nick into Nicholas, his mastering of the World of Will.
One is the self-confident manner he solves a military crisis by going above the head of his superior, Finn, and appealing directly to family connections.
The other is the meeting in Normandy with his old comrades in the Regiment, who fail to recognize him in his new authoriy as a major and liaison officer.

I wonder how the return to the world of art will play out in the next book.


Darwin8u | 12 comments Algernon wrote: "I'm finally finished.
Two scenes that haven't been discusses yet stood out for me, underlining the transformation of Nick into Nicholas, his mastering of the World of Will.
One is the self-confiden..."


Good points Algernon. I'm going to start Winter/4th Movement next week I think.


Diane Barnes I also remember that when he suggested going over Finn's head, and it actually worked, how much he liked the art of subterfuge and the power it wielded.


Algernon (Darth Anyan) | 44 comments Diane wrote: "I also remember that when he suggested going over Finn's head, and it actually worked, how much he liked the art of subterfuge and the power it wielded."

Not as much as Widmerpool, let's hope! ;-)


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