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The Diaries of Dawn Powell 1931-1965 Hardcover – November 1, 1995


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Amazon.com Review

Dawn Powell has often been overlooked since her death at 67 in 1965, but her brilliant novels, such as Angels On Toast, A Time to Be Born and The Wicked Pavilion are returning to print. And to accompany her rediscovery, The Diaries of Dawn Powell: 1931-1965 presents a wondrous evocation of the writing life. More than mere diaries, Powell's journals are at times a workbook presenting many fully-formed narratives. There are thoughtful pieces about why she feels compelled to write and gripes about how writers live. And scattered throughout are witty and gossipy essays about living in literary New York and socializing and working with such characters as Edmund Wilson, John Dos Passos, her editor Max Perkins, and the woman to whom she was often unfairly compared,Dorothy Parker.

From Publishers Weekly

A prolific novelist, short-story writer and playwright from the 1930s through the '50s, Powell, who was forgotten for 25 years after her death, is now, with the republication of her best work, and praise from Gore Vidal and John Updike, becoming a name to be reckoned with again. Born in Ohio in 1897, she moved to New York City at age 21 and lived at the heart of its bohemian and literary life until she died of cancer in 1965. It was a hard life: her only son was mentally unstable and frequently institutionalized; her husband was a congenial but hard-drinking wastrel who seemed to understand nothing of Powell's talent and ambition; her health was often fragile; and money was nearly always tight. Her diaries, sometimes mere jottings, on occasion carefully crafted anecdotes, apothegms and character sketches, reflect a person capable of remarkable observation, steadfastness, courage?and much wit. Considering that she spent time with the likes of John Dos Passos, Edmund Wilson and Ernest Hemingway, however, there is comparatively lean pickings for literary gossips; and Powell's lack of interest in external events is startling: no mention of Pearl Harbor, the atom bombs, JFK's assassination. What is most winning here?despite the overgenerous, sometimes wearing selection of mundane entries by Page, music critic for the Washington Post?is the sense of a powerful, clear-sighted personality asserting an unsentimental vision despite myriad distractions and obstacles.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 520 pages
  • Publisher: Steerforth Press; First Edition edition (November 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1883642086
  • ISBN-13: 978-1883642082
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,101,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By linda.norton@ucop.edu on August 27, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Thank you, Steerforth & Tim Page (and Gore Vidal) for making the work of Dawn Powell available. Of all her books, I like the diaries the best--so candid, such a grown-up view of the world; her comments on writing, the New York literary world, and the gritty beauty and ugliness of New York are always acute. Her grasp of the complexity of relationships is amazing-her comments about her husband Joe, her sweetheart, and her child are poignant reminders that life need not be perfect to be rich. Here is the voice of a remarkable woman, one of the most clear-eyed American writers of the twentieth-century. She captures a particular New York moment as does no other writer, and that's saying something.
I am somehow reminded of another great writer, another unsentimental woman: Natalia Ginzburg. An Italian, her work and Powell's are very different, yet they share a rare candor and stoicism.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on February 20, 2010
Format: Paperback
I'm far from being an expert on Powell, have only read one of her novels (The Wicked Pavilion). I picked up the Diaries on a strong recommendation. No regrets.

This is a long and rich book, 477 pages in my edition. Like so many diaries, it impressed me with Powell's sheer humanity. Unlike other diaries, I felt as though I learned something about many things-- specifically writing, a little bit about truth. And a little bit about artifice too-- his isn't a historical document, but a journal of a mind. These journals span World War II, but you would hardly know it was happening from the text.

Powell was a prolific writer who worked from the 1930s to the 1950s. I'm glad she was prolific, because I'm going to start in on the rest of her books.

Highly recommended. Gold star to Steerforth Press for the extremely helpful biographical notes.
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By James George on January 22, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You have to really, really want to know about Dawn Powell to read this. I admit that I skipped around, but it addressed what I wanted to know from a research perspective. Not for pleasure.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gift for my daughter. She immediately started reading after she opened her present.
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