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A Dance to the Music of Time – his brilliant 12-novel sequence, which chronicles the lives of over three hundred characters, is a unique evocation of life in twentieth-century England.
The novels follow Nicholas Jenkins, Kenneth Widmerpool and others, as they negotiate the intellectual, cultural and social hurdles that stand between them and the “Acceptance World.”
picturesquely, the hundred pounds was said to be a legacy left to Trapnel’s father, the celebrated jockey, as one of the items in the eccentric will of a grateful backer of the winning horse, ridden by Trapnel père, at a long forgotten Egyptian race-meeting. By slow but workmanlike processes of the law, the bequest had in due course been deflected to Trapnel himself as heir and successor, the sum delivered to him. If the latter origin were true, the whimsical testator must either have had a long
as agent at Thrubworth. Sometimes, after a day’s racing, for example, he might return to the old accustomed form. Even then a few misplaced bets would bring the conviction that luck was gone for good, his life over. ‘Christ, what a shambles. Feeling my back too. Trumpeter, what are you sounding now? – Defaulters, old boy, if your name’s Jerry Hat-Trick. You know growing old’s like being increasingly penalized for a crime you haven’t committed.’ ‘Which ones haven’t you committed?’ said
never watched a Bagshaw programme. He looked not only much older, also much more untidy, which once would have seemed hard to achieve. The room we entered was even untidier than Bagshaw himself. The mess there was epic. It seemed half-study, half-nursery, in one corner a bookcase full of works on political theory, in another a large dolls’ house, lacking its façade. The tables and floor were covered with typescripts, income-tax forms, newspapers, weeklies, mini-cars, children’s bricks. Bagshaw
or a forked tail emerging from the seat of his trousers?’ Moreland said that in a conciliatory manner, one he used often to employ with Matilda. Audrey Maclintick brought out the answer through her teeth. ‘It’s Carolo.’ Moreland was not at all prepared for that. It was not a contingency anyone was likely to foretell; at the same time, the musical world being what it was, one not in the least unheard of in the circumstances. At first Moreland looked dreadfully upset. Then, seeing the matter in
dregs.’ Stevens, incapable himself of reproducing cabalistic dialectic, was no less impressed than Moreland, in whose repetition such specialized language lost none of its singularity. The unwonted nature of Mrs Erdleigh’s invocations did not so much in themselves bewilder Stevens as in their practical effect on Pamela. ‘The extraordinary thing was Pam more or less understood the stuff. That was how it looked. At least she stopped in her tracks for a second or two. I’ve never seen anything like