The Diaries of Dawn Powell: 1931-1965

Perhaps these would have been better off in another editor’s hands. Tim Page admits to “gently—algebraically—tightening many of the entries… had somebody else edited these diaries, for better or worse, it would have been a different book.” Well, the book is well-nigh unreadable, so Page does Powell a disservice. A more deft knife would have excised the fat and given us the gleaming stuff underneath.

Powell struggles to support herself, a drunk husband, and a disabled child with her writing. She constantly complains about how slow she writes, how tired she is, how worried about money. Frequent mention of getting drunk herself, at speakeasies during Prohibition, including with e.e. cummings (“we went to Sam’s and drank with E.E. Cummings till five in the morning—a simply heavenly spree. Cummings’ conversation (in its drunken fantastic aspects) permits no interchange—it is a dazzling, glittering spectacle, a parade of wonders and fantastic nonsense. His sarcasm is savage but I note that art and humor both vanish when pretty young girls ask him the meaning of his work—his explanations are as pompous and flattened as any Floyd Dells.”)