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A Time to Be Born Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 327 pages
  • Publisher: Steerforth; Steerforth Press ed edition (June 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1883642418
  • ISBN-13: 978-1883642419
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #514,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Here's one to savor when you're feeling sour--a reissue of a 1942 novel teeming with egregiously opportunistic, social-climbing Manhattanites who see WW II as just one more cause to manipulate and who are appalled not by Hitler's barbarism but by his mean birth and bad manners. The narcissistic queen bitch of the hour (who Gore Vidal purports is modeled casually on Clare Boothe Luce) is Amanda Keeler Evans: she snatches a newspaper baron from his wife; achieves monumental success as a romance novelist after hubby's papers print rave reviews of the ghost-written book; and, subsequently, pontificates on politics without expertise but to great acclaim. Amanda even finds a way to use newly arrived Vicky Haven, an old chum from her anonymous Ohio past. Unbeknownst to Vicky, she's to serve as beard for Amanda's affair with Ken Saunders, an old beau whom Amanda doesn't love but whom she keeps on a leash to bolster her ego. But sparks ignite between beard and beau, the egotistical newspaper baron seeks revenge against an unfaithful wife and Amanda's empire threatens to fold like a house of cards. Period details are keen (in Vicky's apartment house: "At each landing was the conventional old-time niche designed for easing the passage of coffins up and down stairs"), and Powell's ( The Golden Spur ) spoof of the high and mighty still sizzles half a century after it was written.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Originally published in 1940, 1942, and 1954, respectively, this trio were reprinted by Vintage (Classic Returns, LJ 5/1/90) and the now defunct Yarrow Press (Classic Returns, LJ 4/15/91) in the early 1990s, when Powell experienced a bit of a resurgence only to disappear again. Like many of her works, these satirize New York's pseudointellectual elite. Powell is one of American literature's most lethal wits?she could hold her own against Dorothy Parker any time?and should be in all library collections.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

It just was not interesting enough to continue.
ivanino
I enjoyed the story and would read more of her novels if I have the chance.
Old English Major
Her female characters are brilliantly and lovingly worked out.
Thad Brown

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By J. E. Barnes on August 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
Despite its awkward title, Dawn Powell's' 'A Time To Be Born' (1942) is, after Washington Irving's 'A Knickerbocker's History of New York,' the funniest book in American literature.

The story of the rise and fall of ruthless self-promoter, arch manipulator, and glamour girl Amanda Evans Keeler, the novel seamlessly propels the reader through its deliciously involving plot, dropping brisk, barbed, and piercing bombs of cutting humor all the way.

Every other line in this New York City-based minefield is cause for bursts of healthy, uproarious laughter, as one character after another finds their egos and intentions rebuked and thwarted by fate in sardonically appropriate fashion.

While mildly cynical about human nature, the novel's humor thankfully never collapses into cattiness or camp; though sometimes approaching the brittle artifice of Saki or Ronald Firbank, Powell continually steers herself back in humanity's direction whenever she veers too far towards improbability or outright farce.

And humanity, in Powell's vision as expressed here, exists only among those in the lower ranks--the novel's 'Little Men'--who are naive, gullible, and ignorant, but hopeful.

Powell's understanding of what happens to human beings and human relationships as people rise or force their way through the hierarchies of the power elite is wonderfully astute. Though the story takes place just before World War II, the book is timelessly relevant in its illustration of power structures, protocol, and propriety among the powerful and power-mad.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Allen Smalling TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
**********
Dawn Powell, Ohioan by birth, sophisticated Manhattanite by choice, is one of America's biggest cultural hang-fires. This unfortunately still-too-little known writer who died in 1962 deserves a far wider audience; pity that the publishing of most of her novels in a two-volume set by the Library of America in 2001 didn't put her in the cultural Panetheon where she belongs.

"A Time to be Born" is a good starter piece. Powell's novels tend to break into two camps--sentimental and sharp--and this 1941 novel, set among Manhattan's cultural elite just before World War II broke out in 1939--is a great introduction to the latter, more satirical work.

The core of the plot deals with the curious relationship between two women who grew up in the same fictional Ohio small town. Amanda Keeler Evans is a thinly disguised version of Clare Booth Luce, she who authored numerous Broadway plays, one of which became the 1940 MGM classic, THE WOMEN, and who married TIME magazine's publisher and then quickly became a nationally known journalist. Fictional Amanda is more than happy to let her provincial Midwestern past lie in the past but, though a mutual hometown acquaintance, plays Lady Bountiful to her naive high-school acquaintance Vicky Haven, who is about to move to the Big Apple.

Amanda secures Vicky an entry-level job at a publishing house with her big-time bullying and clout. Although she and Vicky are definitely not of the same social set, she wants to keep Vicky close--we suspect that in her cynicism Amanda is so nice to Vicky as a matter of spin control; she doesn't want Vicky blabbing too intimately about their hick background.

Well, it couldn't happen to a nicer bully: Amanda's every good deed never goes unpunished.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By tenor1 on October 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
Dawn Powell's wry way with words shines in this satirical novel. She doesn't take long to set her characters in motion towards an obvious collision course, though some of the turns Powell takes to get there are unexpected. My only complaint is that the plot got a little bogged down in the latter stages of the novel as the Amanda Keeler Evans character got her inevitable comeuppance.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 22, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Like another reviewer, this was my first Powell novel. I enjoyed it immensely and found myself reading it with the eye of a movie camera, imagining what actors of the 40's I would cast. Or Her characters are timeless; her cutting wit is perfect. It not only was entertaining, but profound in its understanding of people. I am anxious to read another Dawn Powell novel.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 19, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is the first of Dawn Powell's books I have read, and I look forward to reading the rest. It's a hilarious send-up of very recognizable types, as caustic and cynical (and as funny) as H. L. Mencken or Ambrose Bierce has written.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
This magical novel was published in 1942. Unlike most of Dawn Powell's earlier novels, it sold well and went through several printings. Although Powell denied it, one of the major characters of the book, Amanda Keeler Evans, is based in part on and satirizes Claie Boothe Luce.
These external details say little about the appeal of this novel.
As with most of Dawn Powell's books, "A Time to be Born" talks about New York City and its effect on young men and women who meet their chances there from small towns in the Midwest. The book's two main characters, Amanda Keeler Evans and Vickie Haven, come to New York City under different circumstances and with different results after being girlhood friends in the town of Lakeville, Ohio.
On the verge of WW II, Amanda has become a success by publishing a schmaltzy romantic novel and hobnobbing with the powerful under the guidance of her husband, Julian, a newspaper magnate. Amanda has married her way to success with Julian but with success will not touch much less sleep with him.
Vicky Haven comes to New York at the peak of Amanda's success to escape the memory of a failed affair in which she has lost
her love to her business partner. She is put up, begrudgingly, by Amanda who uses her pad to entertain the lover, Ken Sanders, that she jilted to marry Julian. Amanda takes the fancy pad for Vicky to have an excuse to have an affair with Ken on the side.
The climax of the book occurs when Vicky decides to leave Amanda's fancy pad and lease an apartment of her own. No luxury this. It is a cold-water flat on the fourth floor of a dilapated building surrounded by warehouses and with a pet shop on the lower floor. But it is Vicky's and it is where her life begins.
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