Magazine December 3, 2018, Issue

‘The Process of Living’

Anthony Powell with his wife Violet on their wedding day in 1934 (Wikimedia Commons)
Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time, by Hilary Spurling (Knopf Doubleday, 480 pp., $35)

Until about a decade ago it seemed as though every figure in literary history was owed a doorstop-sized account of his life. The trade of literary biography boomed, publishers still doled out advances, and universities even set up “life writing” courses, as though a dearth of trained practitioners was a risk. Then it began to fall away. Most of the great writers had been done, and publishers started to recognize that there was a limited market for books on the lives of authors who were themselves no longer widely read. Soon the trade pivoted away from cradle-to-grave biographies and salvaged

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