I enjoyed reading this article in yesterday's Grauniad. It's interesting that leftwingers like Tariq Ali (and like me) find The Music of Time so enthralling. Powell has that in common with Waugh.
I was most interested in what he says about Hearing Secret Harmonies. The fact that Powell was no longer bohemian, he suggests, affected the tone and structure of the novel. Well, I wouldn't be quite so sure about that, but I did feel left down by volume 12. I'd put that down to the sense of bereavement I'd felt at coming to the end of it all.
And I hadn't known about the alternative ending planned for Widmerpool, his disappearing (as he had appeared) into the mist. Would that have been better? It feels like it...
But I disagree that Widmerpool was "taken out of character" in the last volume. He behaved in a way which could not easily have been predicted, to be sure. But it was not out of keeping with the "slavish" look he had as a schoolboy when hit by a banana thrown by the captain of the Eleven; or having sugar poured over him by Barbara Goring; or the whole course of his relationship with Pamela. Departure into the mist would have been more dignified than his real exit. But Widmerpool's dignity was always a complex matter.
I was 24 when I first read A Dance, 47 when I re-read it. I doubt I'll wait 23 years for the third go.