Reggie Oliver: The Book I Would Like To Be Buried With…

The sixth Bury Me With… features the impeccable taste of Thespian and dark-scribe, Reggie Oliver:

A Question of Upbringing“The book I would like to be buried with is A Dance to the Music of Time.

Recently I went to a talk by the revolutionary intellectual and radical 60’s icon Tariq Ali at my local Literary Festival. In the course of an interview he revealed, to my amazement, that, like me, he was a devotee of A Dance to the Music of Time, the twelve novel sequence by Anthony Powell. This is a work which divides opinion considerably. Some see it a dull and snobbish series of novels, mainly about Old Etonians and their spouses written in a slightly circuitous mandarin prose. Others, like Tariq Ali, Ian Rankin (and I) see it as a unique vision of 20th century English society which charts the course through life of some memorable characters.

The most memorable of these is, of course, Widmerpool whose rise and hideous downfall is marked by a series of comic and sometimes horrific vignettes. For the moralist Widmerpool is a masterly study in the destructiveness of egoism; to a political thinker like Tariq Ali he is the quintessence of the ruthless establishment man who walks the British corridors of power, to a fellow writer he is a superb lesson in how to build and develop a credible but memorable fictional character over a period of time.

And why should a horror writer in particular admire this work? Well, Powell is a writer who has no dogma or ideology to speak of but who is fascinated by the sheer strangeness of life and human nature. There is a fascinating occult and supernatural thread running through the books: there is Mrs Erdleigh, the fortune teller; Dr Trelawney the mage, based partly on Aleister Crowley whom Powell had met; there is the New Age occultist Scorpio Murtlock who proves to be Widmerpool’s nemesis. A ghost features unapologetically in the fifth novel, The Kindly Ones. And there are scenes of true dark horror: for example the deaths of  X. Trapnel and Widmerpool whose last episode reflects as in a distorting mirror the first time we see this character in the very first of the novel sequence, A Question of Upbringing.

Powell is a writer who sees life as a strange dance, full of mysteries and coincidences, whose pattern only half emerges as you approach its end. I think you will find that vision shared and expressed by many of the best writers in our genre.”

More information on A Dance to the Music of Time is at Wikipedia.


Reggie_19About Reggie Oliver:

Reggie Oliver has been a professional playwright, actor, and theatre director since 1975. His biography of Stella Gibbons, Out of the Woodshed, was published by Bloomsbury in 1998. Besides plays, his publications include four volumes of stories: The Dreams of Cardinal Vittorini (Haunted River 2003), The Complete Symphonies of Adolf Hitler (Haunted River 2005), Masques of Satan (Ash Tree 2007), and Madder Mysteries (Ex Occidente 2009), and a novel Virtue in Danger (Ex Occidente 2010). An omnibus edition of his stories entitled Dramas from the Depths is published by Centipede, as part of its Masters of the Weird Tale series. His stories have been published in Zencore, Shades of Darkness, Tails of Wonder and Imagination (an anthology of cat stories) and many other anthologies including successive editions of such series as Exotic Gothic, Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, The Black Book of Horror and The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror.