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In the course of writing yesterday’s post on Guy Davenport I pulled an offprint from an attic shelf, and this morning, leafing through it, I find the following:

“I’m reading Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time, an hilarious and very good work. The only book I know that takes Proust’s habitual narrative gestures, Anglicizes them, and succeeds in the effort. In fact, Powell is the best critical study of Proust.”
Guy Davenport. “Fragments from a Correspondence”, edited by Nicholas Kilmer. Arion (Third Series) 13:3 (2006), p. 106.

I record this for several reasons. Firstly, because Davenport’s writings are very relevant to the discussion of the critical fiction but always with the caution that he is a tricky writer* given to his own bold narrative gestures, among which assertion is to be numbered. Secondly, because I do not know Proust or Powell well enough to weigh the assertion; perhaps a reader or two does, and will report on the causal and critical connection that Davenport claims.
And, thirdly, because it is evident from reader correspondence that the discussion (and indeed definition) of critical fiction is best advanced by example rather than by written definition. So that even examples which, upon examination, prove not to be critical fictions will demonstrate characteristics of the form.


* A very tricky writer, particularly when he makes such gestures as this: “I’m a janitor. I sweep up scraps other people have abandoned” (p.102).

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