To Keep the Ball Rolling Critical Context - Essay

Anthony Powell

Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Although not the last of Powell’s literary works, his memoirs were published when Powell was in his seventies, after a long and productive literary career. Afternoon Men, his earliest novel, had appeared in 1931, almost half a century before the first volume of To Keep the Ball Rolling. In the many years between, Powell wrote sixteen other novels as well as two volumes about Aubrey, in addition to composing innumerable reviews and other articles for various newspapers and magazines. In one sense his memoir is similar to those of many other literary figures, coming as it did toward the end of a literary life. Less personally revealing than the remembrances of some other figures of the twentieth century, Powell’s memoirs are more traditional in form and content and perhaps more British than American in point of view.

What makes his memoirs of particular interest to many readers, however, is what they might reveal about the relationship between Powell’s life and his masterpiece, A Dance to the Music of Time. The multivolume novel, written over many years, is in the opinion of many literary critics one of the major fictional works of the second half of the twentieth century. It is so monumental an accomplishment that it cannot help but cast a long shadow over the four volumes of To Keep the Ball Rolling. One wonders to what degree the fictional Nicholas Jenkins is a copy of the real Anthony Powell, how closely the...

(The entire section is 503 words.)