I've just sold, for the first time in a while, 'A Question of Upbringing', the first of the 'Dance to the Music of Time' novels. In fact, I've sold a few- a mixture of the customer asking for it and me recommending it. One of these recommends I'm particularly pleased with as it was to our most prolific buyer of modern fiction. Stuck for an idea- especially as this customer has read more 21st century novels than I, or indeed most booksellers, have, I decided to try suggesting something a bit different. I shouldn't have been worried as this customer likes good writing and Dance to the Music.. drips with quality prose but being the first in a 12 bock sequence about the life and times of narrator Nicholas Jenkins 'A Question of Upbringing' is a public school/campus novel (and, I think, one of the weakest in the series) and I was not at all sure that this would appeal to my customer. Also it has become fashionable to decry Powell as dated and just too posh, in my view neither accusation holds but when you hear something so often you wonder what other people may think, it is a tricky thing recommending books, after all someone is going to give over a few hours of their life to your suggestion- I take it seriously.
Anyway- said customer perused the book for a while, bought it and the next day two of her friends came in to pick up the next 3 in the sequence she loved it so much.
By coincidence my partner picked up a copy of the audio version read by Simon Callow. Even in this abridged form its quality stands out-a fairly random example, Jenkins on unexpectedly meeting someone from his old school
'....there was still a kind of exotic drabness about his appearance that seemed to mark him out from the rest of mankind.'
'He also retained his accusing manner, which seemed to suggest that he suspected people of trying to worm out of him important information which he was not, on the whole, prepared to divulge at so cheap a price as that offered.'
I haven't even mentioned richness of characters such as X. Trapnel the greatcoat wearing, sword stick carrying budding genius or Kenneth Widmerpool the subject of the above descriptions and one of the great malicious presences in English literature or that the 12 books become a history of London from about 1920 until 1970 and within these books are several excellent war novels.
So come on- having failed to ignite a moo min revolution, although someone did get me a very nice Moomin mouse mat from Finland- Let's start a Dance to the Music of Time revival.