Anthony Powell by Michael Barber
A Life

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Synopsis

In this biography of Anthony Powell, publisher, journalist, man-about-town and author of the "Dance to the Music of Time" sequence, Michael Barber takes a close look at the man and the writer. He finds someone whose temperament was often at war with his upbrining. The son of an army officer, educated at Eton and Balliol, Powell chose as his closest friends people like Malcolm Muggeridge and the composer, Constant Lambert, who were not out ot the top drawer or the one below it. And, although happily married for over sixty years to Lady Violet Pakenham, the daughter of an earl, he admitted that he had "always been attracted by girls who looked as they'd slept under a bush for a week". Powell believed that creative writing was, like alchemy, a mysterious, indefinable proces by which experience became art. Michael Barberfocuses on the experience that provided Powell with his raw material. He pays particular attention to the "entre-deux-guerres", that sharply divided cultural interlude when the artists and good-timers with whom Powell identified in the twenties were followed, in the thirties, by the politicians and the prigs.
 

About Michael Barber

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Sir Michael Barber is the Founding Director of the US Education Delivery Institute, which is designed explicitly tohelp U.S. state education systems strengthen their capacity to deliver results. The US Education Delivery Institute is unique among U.S. nonprofits in that it focuses on exclusively on how to get things done, rather than what to do. Barber is an Expert Partner in McKinsey and Company's Global Public Sector Practice and head of its Global Education Practice. He works on major challenges of performance, organization, and reform in government and the public services, especially education, around the world. He is coauthor of the widely read international benchmarking study How the World's Best Performing School Systems Come Out on Top (Barber & Mourshed, 2007). Prior to joining McKinsey, Barber was (from 2001) Chief Adviser on Delivery to the British prime minister, Tony Blair. As head of the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit, he was responsible for the oversight of implementation of the prime minister's priority programs in health, education, transport, policing, the criminal justice system, and asylum/immigration. The approach to delivery he developed is widely seen as constructive and innovative and has been described by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as "the frontier" of performance management in government. His (2008) book about this experience-Instruction to Deliver: Fighting to Reform Britain's Public Services-was described by the Financial Times as "one of the best books written on British government for many years" (Bogdanor, 2007, para. 12) and has been read by political leaders on five continents. Between 1997 and 2001, Barber was Chief Adviser to the Secretary of State for Education on School Standards. Prior to joining government, he was a professor at the Institute of Education, University of London. His other major publications include The Learning Game: Arguments for an Education Revolution (1997), How to Do the Impossible: A Guide for Politicians With a Passion for Education (1997), and The Virtue of Accountability (Boston University 2005). His advice on public policy, especially education, has been sought by governments in over 20 countries, including Australia, the USA, Russia, Estonia, Chile, and Hong Kong, and by major international organizations, including the Organization of Economic Co-Operation and Development, The World Bank, and the IMF. He is an Honorary Doctor at the Universities of Exeter, Nottingham, Trent, and Wolverhampton and a Visiting Professor at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, and the Institute of Education, University of London.
 
Published July 8, 2004 by Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd. 256 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction, Business & Economics, Self Help. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Anthony Powell

The New York Times

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In ''Messengers of Day'' (1978), the second of his four volumes of memoirs, Powell dilates briefly on the ''vulgarity'' and ''implausibilities'' of Balzac before dismissing them as unimportant: ''Besides -- something never to be forgotten -- with all novelists one must put up with something.'' To...

Oct 31 2004 | Read Full Review of Anthony Powell: A Life

Publishers Weekly

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"An uninspiring figure, to say the least." So wrote Anthony Powell (1905–2000) in his journals about his future first biographer, after Barber (The Captain: Th

Jul 19 2004 | Read Full Review of Anthony Powell: A Life

London Review of Books

For like most people with few affinities with and very little actual knowledge of or even interest in the lives of the English upper-middle classes, and with the usual number of chips on my shoulder, I had assumed that Powell was a prig and buffoon who wrote the kinds of book preferred by men who...

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The Age

The trouble with Michael Barber's life of Anthony Powell is that he tries to treat Powell as a character whereas the whole logic of Powell's mature fiction is to present the self as a walking mirror, admitting no reflection.

Apr 30 2005 | Read Full Review of Anthony Powell: A Life

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