The Message of the City: Patricia Palermo on Dawn Powell’s New York Novels


Dawn Powell was a gifted satirist who moved in the same circles as Dorothy Parker, Ernest Hemingway, renowned editor Maxwell Perkins, and other midcentury New York luminaries. Her many novels are typically divided into two groups: those dealing with her native Ohio and those set in New York. In this critical biography and study of the New York novels, Patricia Palermo reminds us how Powell earned a place in the national literary establishment and East Coast social scene. Though Powell’s prolific output has been out of print for most of the past few decades, a revival is under way: the Library of America, touting her as a “rediscovered American comic genius,” released her collected novels, and in 2015 she was posthumously inducted into the New York State Writer’s Hall of Fame. Engaging and erudite, The Message of the City fills a major gap in in the story of a long-overlooked literary great. Palermo places Powell in cultural and historical context and, drawing on her diaries, reveals the real-life inspirations for some of her most delicious satire. 

Patricia Palermo grew up in Southern California where she attended college and earned a BA degree in English and history and an MA in English with distinction, and moved east twenty-five years ago to pursue a PhD in five areas of literature, women's studies, and Victorian history. In early 2001, she ran across an article about a writer she had never heard of before. Having read or at least heard of just about every book ever written in English, she was stunned to find she had never heard of prolific author Dawn Powell,  writer of 15 novels, 12 plays, 100+ short stories, letters, book reviews, and journals. Patricia immediately set out to read every word Powell wrote and then every word written about her. This labor of love took 11 to 12 years, culminating in The Message of the City: Dawn Powell's NY Novels. Palermo is a life-long vegetarian, world traveler, champion of animal rights, the environment,  and social justice. She has taught a variety of subjects at colleges, universities, high schools, and middle schools for nearly 30 years. Today she is a writer, tutor, and independent scholar living in the greater NYC area. A lover of old films, she is owned by two cats, Katharine Hepburn and Greta Garbo. 

Event date: 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017 - 7:00pm

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The Message of the City: Dawn Powell’s New York Novels, 1925–1962 Cover Image
ISBN: 9780804011686
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Swallow Press - May 27th, 2016