Earthly Powers (Magill's Literary Annual 1981)
It is very near the end of Earthly Powers that the narrator, Kenneth Marchal Toomey, now eighty-one years old, sits in a theater in Rome watching an old film version of three of his short stories. The audience is composed mostly of young people who neither understand nor appreciate what they are watching. One of those stories, the last, involves the perpetration of meaningless violence by thugs who know full well the value of the priceless artifacts and manuscripts they are destroying.
Toomey leaves the theater only to be beaten up in an alley by four boys. True, they have a purpose in assaulting him, which is to steal his watch and money, but of far greater importance is the gratuitous viciousness of their attack. It is a sick and demented malignancy, as motiveless in its extremism as anything Iago could contrive.
Together, the two scenes are a commentary on the book’s major theme. One scene occurs inside the theater, the other outside; one is imaginary, the other is gruesomely real; one is the product of Toomey’s youth, the other is an event that befalls him in his advanced years. Thus the novel seems to say that in whatever country Toomey finds himself, whether England or Italy, whatever his artistic status, whether as a young, struggling author or an elderly commercial success, no matter what his circumstances, he cannot...
(The entire section is 1791 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Bibliography (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
Aggeler, Geoffrey. Anthony Burgess: The Author as Novelist, 1979.
Boytinck, Paul W. Anthony Burgess: A Reference Guide, 1985.
Boytinck, Paul W. Anthony Burgess: An Enumerative Bibliography, 1974.
Coale, Samuel. Anthony Burgess, 1981.
DeVitis, A. A. Anthony Burgess, 1972.
Dix, Carol M. Anthony Burgess, 1971.
Morris, Robert K. The Consolations of Ambiguity: An Essay on the Novels of Anthony Burgess, 1971.
(The entire section is 53 words.)