The Locusts Have No King
Written by Dawn Powell
Fiction - Literary
Trade Paperback 5-1/4 x 8, ISBN 978-1-883642-42-6 (1-883642-42-6), 303 PAGES
$14.95 (CANADIAN $21.00), June 1998
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Reading Group Guide
Ten years after Steerforth launched the Dawn Powell revival, her five best-selling novels are being reissued in newly designed Zoland Books editions with Reading Group Guides inside.
Late in life, out of luck and fashion, Henry James predicted a day when all of his neglected novels would kick off their headstones, one after another. As the twentieth century came to an end, the works of Dawn Powell managed the same magnificent task.
When Powell died in 1965, virtually all her books were out of print. Not a single historical survey of American literature mentioned her, even in passing. And so she slept, seemingly destined to be forgotten – or, to put it more exactly, never to be remembered.
How things have changed! Twelve of Powell’s novels have now been reissued, along with editions of her plays, diaries, letters, and short stories. She has joined the Library of America, admitted to the illustrious company of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Adams, Frederick Douglass, and Edith Wharton. She is taught in college and read with delight on vacation. For the contemporary poet and novelist Lisa Zeidner, writing in The New York Times Book Review, Powell “is wittier than Dorothy Parker, dissects the rich better than F. Scott Fitzgerald, is more plaintive than Willa Cather in her evocation of the heartland, and has a more supple control of satirical voice than Evelyn Waugh.” For his part, Gore Vidal offered a simple reason for Powell’s sudden popularity: “We are catching up to her.”
Tim Page, Powell’s biographer, from his new foreword to My Home Is Far Away, Dawn Powell was born in Mt. Gilead, Ohio, on November 28, 1896, the second of three daughters. Her father was a traveling salesman, and her mother died a few days after Dawn turned seven. After enduring great cruelty at the hands of her stepmother, Dawn ran away at the age of thirteen and eventually arrived at the home of her maternal aunt, who served hot meals to travelers emerging from the train station across the street. Dawn worked her way through college and made it to New York. There she married a young advertising executive and had one child, a boy who suffered from autism, then an unknown condition.
Powell referred to herself as a “permanent visitor” in her adopted Manhattan and brought to her writing a perspective gained from her upbringing in Middle America. She knew many of the great writers of her time, and Diana Trilling famously said it was Dawn “who really says the funny things for which Dorothy Parker gets credit.” Ernest Hemingway called her his “favorite living writer.” She was one of America’s great novelists, and yet when she died in 1965 she was buried in an unmarked grave in New York’s Potter’s Field.
Her books live, and with these newly designed editions, with their reading group guides inside, more people than ever before will be able to hear Dawn’s distinctive voice.
ABOUT THIS BOOK
NO ONE HAS SATIRIZED New York society quite like Dawn Powell, and in this classic novel she turns her sharp eye and stinging wit on the literary world, and "identifies every sort of publishing type with the patience of a pathologist removing organs for inspection." Frederick Olliver, an obscure historian and writer, is having an affair with the restively married, beautiful, and hugely successful playwright, Lyle Gaynor. Powell sets a see-saw in motion when Olliver is swept up by the tasteless publishing tycoon, Tyson Bricker, and his new book makes its way onto to the bestseller lists just as Lyle's Broadway career is coming apart.
"For decades Dawn Powell was always just on the verge of ceasing to be a cult and becoming a major religion." Gore Vidal
"The 1948 tale of a scholar's roller-coaster affair with a married society type is an anguished love story, a reversal-of-fortune parable, and a blistering satire that rings true today—cynical columnists, silly socialites, sinister nighthawks, all in one gorgeous Deco package." Borish Kachka, Bloomberg Businessweek
"Dawn Powell once wrote that although her writing might occasionally concern itself with serious matters, there was never any need to get heavy-handed about it. The Locusts Have no King, first published in 1948, is a stellar example of this quasi-manifesto. Like all Powell's novels, it glides, fast but deep, from the first sentence to the last, written with impeccable finesse and a flawless ear, never grinding its wheels or getting lost in egotistical undergrowth. For all its sweetness and light, Locusts is an intelligent, hard-headed, clear-eyed, examination of art, love, ruthlessness, infidelity, commerce, ambition, betrayal, and destruction. It is, in short, a quintessential New York novel. . . . The whole novel still rings as true now as it must have more than half a century ago." Kate Christensen, author of The Epicure's Lament and other novels in Barnes & Noble Review.
“The Locusts Have No King is one of Powell’s finest novels and better than anything currently on the bestseller lists.” Library Journal (Classic Returns column, 1995)