I discovered the novels of Dawn Powell, a few years ago, and immediately fell in love with her writing. She lived and wrote in New York in the '20's, through the 50's. She was a contemporary of Dorothy Parker, and had a similar withering wit, but she had a profound depth and sadness to her as well. She wrote of young people just moved to the big city and trying to make it, she wrote of artists and homosexuals, of bar lingerers and social climbers, fakers and nubiles, naïve youth, embittered age, heartbreaking failure, selfish success. She wrote of New York City, but also more tender novels of life in the Midwest. She wrote hysterically funny plays, (which remind me of a sort of New York version of Noel Coward), essays, and her diary is deemed by our friend -novelist Howard Norman- to be even greater than that of Virginia Woolf. I have read one jacket sleeve introduction, which says of her New York novels that it is as if The City itself is a character in her books. That it seems to come alive in her endless poetic fascination with it. I think this is quite true.
She lived in obscurity however, only appreciated by her fellow writers and artists (Henry James among them). She struggled to get her plays put on, and to get her novels published. She was a brilliant, cynical, dark, funny, sad, beautiful, "nobody writes that good," failure. Until Gore Vidal (god bless him) came along and insisted on her being "discovered", which she was, and Steerforth press came along and published her. I believe she was dead at the time. Correct me if I'm wrong.
I can't for the life of me remember what book contains the scene that influenced me for this week's song. Her books to me all blur together, like one big Dawn Powell extravaganza. As with all great writers, their writings seem to me to be connected, to be part of a whole. (I have to think for quite a while for instance, to remember in which book Kitty and Levin appear, or whether Fanny is in Persuasion or Mansfield Park. The characters are alive in your imagination, and dot around into all the different books, "visiting" each other). Anyway, the scene is a café, or bar, and a Ladies Lunch. Two ladies. One is the town gossip, the other, whose life has just fallen apart, is getting rather drunk, and rather candid. Though she tries to be gay, (jolly), accidental pieces of truth escape her, much to the delight of her lunch partner, who can't wait to scurry off and call everybody. It's an excruciating scene of despair and betrayal, all done with smiles over lunch.
In the song I wrote, I change it slightly, making it a scene about a barfly.
It is called, "Candid Lady", and is produced by Larry Klein. The players are; Larry Klein on bass and keyboards, Dean Parks on guitar, Albert Wing on tenor sax, Scott Amendola on drums.