In his first fiction since completing A Dance to the Music of Time, Powell has sketched in a rather Maugham-ish anecdote of literary-world jealousy, envy, and pride--a wry little fable in which aficionados of British letters may see roman Ã clef glimmers. G. F. Shadbold, a minor literary eminence of no special talent, is entering a comfortable old age (married to Proserpine, a good-selling mystery writer) when his unwarranted self-esteem receives an assault from the past: he's shown the manuscript of the never-published 1930s Diaries of minor writer Cedric Winterwade (a WW II casualty)--who, it turns out, had a Paris affair with Isolde Upjohn, a glamour-celeb who rejected Shadbold's advances. Horrors! So Shadbold does his best to suppress publication of the Diaries--but somehow the specter of Cedric Winterwade refuses to be brushed off. Proserpine's ex-husband, an academic, is intent on resurrecting Winterwade's one forgotten novel. And then, on the very day that Shadbold is being TV-interviewed at home by a smarmy, dirt-seeking chat-host, who should appear at his door after 40-some years but Isolde Upjohn, now the much-divorced Mrs. Abdullah! She takes over the TV talk, exposes the entire Isolde/ Shadbold/Winterwade triangle--making an utter, utterly public fool of Shadbold. . . who will make a slight attempt to fight back (digging up a speck of Winterwade dirt) before succumbing to assorted ironic shocks. The windup here is something of a letdown, the treatment throughout is paper-thin--but along the way, as in some pages of his recent memoirs, Powell takes cool, sharp, amusing aim at literary/academic poseurs and pettiness.