Sunday, January 02, 2022

Anthony Powell, Hearing Secret Harmonies (1975)

Welp, here we are.  The end!  Powell wrote one book every two years for twenty-four years--impressive discipline for sure--and now: it is over.  Blah!

You know, you sort of think there's going to be some big climax--there's not necessarily any good reason to think that, given everything that's come before, but you do--and then you're reading, la la, and it's all sort of business as usual, and you think, huh.  I'm seventy-six percent of the way through this.  It really, really doesn't look like anything particularly climactic is going to happen.

Well, Nick is working in publishing, or something.  As ever with Nick, there is no telling what his deal is.  But he's on a committee which awards a memorial prize in honor of the late Magnus Donners to the best published biography (Emily Brightman--now a dame--is also on the committee, but alas, she appears very little).  They're having trouble finding a book to award this year--it's sometime in the sixties--but then there's Russell Gwinnett's biography of X. Trapnel that's just been published.  So okay, let's go with that.  Gwinnett shows up to collect the prize, and ends up marrying Nick's niece Fiona, and for the curious, no, we never learn the names of any of Nick's (two? three?) children.  His marriage seems to be going well, though, so that's okay.

And it's the sixties, so there is also a new-agey cult thingie, led by this slightly sinister svengali called Scorp Murtlock.  Fiona had been involved in it but left.  Widmerpool was off in the States, teaching at universities, getting all counter-culture-y, but now he's back, and he embraces this cult-or-whatever (if you wanted to imagine the seventy-ish Widmerpool dancing naked as part of some sort of ritual, well, that's something that happens, albeit off-page).  That's okay for a while I guess, but Widmerpool definitively looses whatever power struggles he's having with Murtlock, and is in kind of a degraded position.  At the end of the book, we learn that he has died from overexertion during a ritual run.  The end.

Welp, that was what it was!  The fact that it ends with the end of Widmerpool does tend to confirm that he's the series' central figure.  As obnoxious as he was, I was sorry to see him go.  Sort of.  Powell was seventy-ish when he wrote the book, and there does seem to be a certain element of "you dern kids get off my lawn" to all the hippie-ish stuff, but eh, 'salright.  I did not find that this particular book individually stood out all that much, even comparatively speaking, but...well, now it's over.  I will perhaps write a little more about the series as a whole in a separate post.


Post a Comment

<< Home