INFANTS OF THE SPRING: The Memoirs of Anthony Powell by Anthony Powell

INFANTS OF THE SPRING: The Memoirs of Anthony Powell

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Though Powell is probably not planning a twelve-volume autobiography to match his twelve-volume novel, A Dance to the Music of Time, this is but a first memoiristic installment, taking a rather colorless, terribly proper Anthony through Eton and Oxford in the first years after World War I. When the author's younger serf is personally involved, the tone is usually one of abstinence, reticence, or negation--not reacting much to a homosexual advance, not being interested in hearing about Somerset Maugham and his houseparty. But if Anthony-the-youth leaves no emotional impression, Powell-the-elegant-observer takes to his celebrity-dotted schoolboy surroundings with a characteristic compulsion to follow up, classify, and judge. He provides ""potted biographies of all the [Eton] Arts Society's founding members,"" a roster that includes Oxfordians prominent in a raft of other between-the-wars memoirs: Harold Acton (""now Sir Harold""), flamboyant Brian Howard. He returns again and again to close classmate Henry Yorke (who became novelist Henry Green), wrestling with Green's autobiographical Pack My Bag, and always leaving a sense of cool, envious condescension rather than anything approaching a warm regard. Oxford brings on, of course, Cyril Connolly, Peter Quennell, the Hypocrites Club, and assorted dons--including the blissfully bestial C. M. Bowra. Powell, stickler for detail and lover of the semi-colon, is never less than a crisp, suave raconteur, but it is only in a flash-forward that follows George Orwell from initial meeting (G.O.'s first words to a uniformed A.P.: ""Do your trousers strap under the foot?"") to last days (shopping for a smoking. jacket for the dying Orwell) that the always-checked emotions filter through. So, perhaps later volumes of To Keep the Ball Rolling (the overall memoir title) will roil with the punches rather than pull them; meanwhile, a sturdy addition to the Old Boy shelf and, for devotÉes of Dance/Music/Time, a guide to some fact foundations for all that fiction.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1977
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston