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Two novels and nine short stories from a wry early 20th century writer who has been compared to Dorothy Parker, Muriel Spark, Anthony Powell, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The introduction from New York Newsday music critic Tim Page (currently at work on a Powell biography) offers compelling insight into a woman who embodied the passionate, laissez-faire attitude of Greenwich Village in the 1920s and translated it into work that is often both cynical and deeply romantic -- but always, always funny. Judging from this particular collection, Powell stuck with a few main themes. She candidly revealed women in a realistic light, as when a wife bravely confronts her abusive traveling salesman husband in the novel Dance Night or when two newly wedded mothers shoplift their way out of boredom in the story ""Such a Pretty Day."" (Edmund Wilson once noted that Powell's work didn't quite suit feminists because ""the women who appear in her stories are likely to be as sordid and absurd as the men."") She cast an honest eye on the suffocating effects of small town life and depicted the mixed blessing of escape to the big city, as in the story ""What Are You Doing in My Dreams?"" which shows a woman receiving nightly visits from dead relatives she left long ago in Ohio. And she closely studied the New York glitterati and city sophisticates; the novel Turn, Magic Wheel lays bare the Big Apple's literary scene and reveals a young writer to be a self-serving parasite. Powell's work is a testament to her belief that ""true wit should break a wise man's heart. It should strike at the exact point of weakness and it should scar."" A little weighty if read too quickly, this collection demands time and patience to allow the robustness of Powell's work to come through -- and the comic wounds she inflicts to heal.

Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1994
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Steerforth