Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Anthony Powell, The Acceptance World (1955)

This book takes place in the early thirties--Great Depression times, although you wouldn't really know that from the book itself.  The title refers to the idea that trading partners have to operate on faith to a certain degree--that is, you have to pay someone before you've actually gotten what you're supposed to be getting, and sometimes that works out, and sometimes not.  This is generalized to life in general.

So, once again, Nick meeting various people, going to parties, etc.  Very broadly speaking, the book revolves around this older novelist, St. John Clarke, who was hoping for a Nobel Prize but obviously never got there.  It's hard to tell from the text whether he's actually meant to be a good writer (we also learn that Nick himself has published a novel at this point, but we learn absolutely nothing about it, not even its name--it's funny how Powell is so dismissive and matter-of-fact about this, whereas Proust will write thousand and thousand of words about his inability to write).  Opinions vary.  But at any rate, there are two dudes, a poet named Mark Members and a Marxist named Quiggin, vying to be his secretary.  Templer is married, but his wife leaves him for Quiggin.  Nick starts an affair with Jean, Templer's (now-married) sister with whom he'd convinced himself he was in love back in A Question of Upbringing but then more or less forgot about until now.  At a school reunion, Widmerpool starts giving a long and boring lecture on economics which (maybe) causes the headmaster, La Bes, to have a stroke.  Stringham seems to have descended into alcoholism.  And that's about it.

Man, I have a hard time summarizing these things coherently.  That probably looks like a synopsis of an episode of a soap opera.  But that might be appropriate: these don't exactly have the sort of structure you might expect from a novel.  Basically, things happen, life goes on, people come and go, and then it's over.  It can be a bit disorienting, because you're almost certainly not used to it.

But for the record, I DID find this rather more engaging than A Buyer's Market.  Seems like there IS a bit more stuff happening.  There's one entertaining scene where Nick and the Templers are using a planchette (a Victorian ouija board, more or less).  I feel, at any rate, that I have a bit more momentum now going forward than I did.  We shall see!


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