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Dawn Powell

Dawn Powell in Greenwich Village, New York City, 1963. (Marvin Lichtner/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

Major works:
Turn, Magic WheelThe Locusts Have No KingThe Wicked Pavilion

“Her real theme is the provincial in New York who has come on from the Middle West and acclimated himself (or herself) to the city and made himself a permanent place there, without ever, however, losing his fascinated sense of an alien and anarchic society. . . . Such a world has great comic possibilities if one has enjoyed it on its own terms and yet observed it from a point of view that does quite accept these terms as normal, and Miss Powell has exploited these possibilities with a wit, a gift of comic invention and an individual accent that make her books unlike any others.”
—Edmund Wilson

Excerpt from

A Time to Be Born

Dawn Powell

This was no time to cry over one broken heart. It was no time to worry about Vicky Haven or indeed any other young lady crossed in love, for now the universe, nothing less, was your problem. You woke in the morning with the weight of doom on your head. You lay with eyes shut wondering why you dreaded the day; was it a debt, was it a lost love?—and then you remembered the nightmare. It was a dream, you said, nothing but a dream, and the covers were thrown aside, the dream was over, now for the day. Then, fully awake, you remembered that it was no dream. Paris was gone, London was under fire, the Atlantic was now a drop of water between the flame on one side and the waiting dynamite on the other. This was a time of waiting, of marking time till ready, of not knowing what to expect or what to want either for yourself or for the world, private triumph or failure lost in the world’s failure. The longed-for letter, the telephone ringing at last, the familiar knock at the door—very well, but there was still something to await—something unknown, something fantastic, perhaps the stone statue from Don Giovanni marching in or the gods of the mountain. Day’s duties were performed to the metronome of Extras, radio broadcasts, committee conferences on war orphans, benefits for Britain, send a telegram to your congressman, watch your neighbor for free speech, vote for Willkie or for Roosevelt and banish care from the land.

Read a passage from A Time to Be Born by Dawn Powell
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