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“At Eton,” Anthony Powell once remarked, “novel-writing was the ordinary thing to do, and I had always been taught to do the ordinary thing.” Yet Powell’s postwar epic, A Dance to the Music of Time, is extraordinary even by Etonian standards. The elegantly structured 12-novel sequence, recently reissued by the University of Chicago, traces the fortunes of its three main characters over six decades. (The first volume, A Question of Upbringing, was published in 1951; the last, Hearing Secret Harmonies, in 1975.) These characters—narrator Nick Jenkins, dandified Charles Stringham, and ungainly Kenneth Widmerpool—are introduced as schoolboys, and their lives remain intertwined in a manner both bitingly funny and impossibly grim. Chapters habitué John Monagan, a correspondent of the 91-year-old Powell, discusses “Widmerpool & Friends” at 3 p.m. at Chapters, 1512 K St. NW. FREE. (202) 347-5495.