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Richard Powers
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message 1: by Neil (last edited Jul 03, 2018 07:39AM) (new)

Neil | 2063 comments Richard Powers (1957-?)

Novels
1985 Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance
1988 Prisoner's Dilemma
1991 The Gold Bug Variations
1993 Operation Wandering Soul
1995 Galatea 2.2
1998 Gain
2000 Plowing the Dark
2003 The Time of Our Singing
2006 The Echo Maker
2009 Generosity: An Enhancement
2014 Orfeo
2018 The Overstory

Richard Powers (born June 18, 1957) is an American novelist whose works explore the effects of modern science and technology. His novel The Echo Maker won the 2006 National Book Award for Fiction. He has also won many other awards over the course of his career, including a MacArthur Fellowship. As of 2018 Powers has published twelve novels, and has taught at the University of Illinois and Stanford Universities. (Wikipedia).


message 2: by Neil (last edited Jul 03, 2018 07:41AM) (new)

Neil | 2063 comments This is a useful article that covers his first 8 novels and gives a good summary if you are trying to decide which one to read. My personal view is that the eighth of these (The Time of Our Singing) is his masterpiece.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/26/boo...

That said, you should not ignore novels 9-12. Orfeo and The Overstory perhaps especially.


message 3: by Maddie (new)

Maddie (ashelfofonesown) | 113 comments I found a bargain on Orfeo and bought it right away. The Overstory is also very high-up on my TBR and I can't wait to read it. Powers sound like the kind of writer to become a new favourite.


message 4: by Tom (new)

Tom | 199 comments This is great, thank you!


message 5: by Hugh (last edited Jul 03, 2018 07:46AM) (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3589 comments Mod
Thanks Neil. I have read three of these: Orfeo, The Time of Our Singing and The Echo Maker, and all of them were very impressive. I am also currently reading Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance. He has a deep knowledge and understanding of both science and music, and is not afraid to discuss complicated ideas.

I suspect that I will wait for the paperback before reading The Overstory, but that may change if it is longlisted for the Booker.

My tentative ordering of those would be:
1 The Time of Our Singing
2 Orfeo
3 The Echo Maker


message 6: by Neil (new)

Neil | 2063 comments Maddie - he is my favourite and I've read all 12 of those listed above. I'd advise people to leave Operation Wandering Soul until you know you like his stuff (it's sort of stream of consciousness and quite hard work), but that's the only caveat I have.


message 7: by Joe (new)

Joe (paddyjoe) | 76 comments If anyone is attending this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival you'll be able to hear the man himself discuss The Overstory.
https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/the-fest...

I have my ticket, and hoping to read the book before the event.


message 8: by Neil (last edited Jul 03, 2018 09:12AM) (new)

Neil | 2063 comments And he will be in conversation with Neil Griffiths, organiser of the Republic Of Consciousness Prize for small presses and author of, amongst others, As A God Might Be.


message 9: by Neil (new)

Neil | 2063 comments I will post it here because I can’t remember where it was that this was discussed.

I am at the early stages of a complete re-read of Mr Powers’ books. I know at least a couple of people threatened to join me for at least part of the journey.

I am reading them in publication order and I plan to read one in each calendar month, so it will take a year. I’ve already done Three Farmers... and I am currently close to finishing Prisoner’s Dilemma.

January will be The Gold Bug Variations, widely regarded (though not by me) as his best work.


message 10: by carissa (new)

carissa | 98 comments Neil wrote: "I know at least a couple of people threatened to join me for at least part of the journey...."

I'm following through on that, Neil.
At a more relaxed pace though... :)
I've also started 3 Farmers.
Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm...and passing it on!


message 11: by Neil (new)

Neil | 2063 comments Hi carissa - I hope you enjoy it. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on Mr Powers' works as you get to them.


message 12: by Sam (new)

Sam | 1713 comments Neil wrote: "I will post it here because I can’t remember where it was that this was discussed.

I am at the early stages of a complete re-read of Mr Powers’ books. I know at least a couple of people threatened..."


I will be attempting to read the January selection but the density and size of the tome may cause me to wait till the shorter Wandering Soul to join in.


message 13: by Neil (new)

Neil | 2063 comments I would say Operation Wandering Soul is Powers’ most difficult book!


message 14: by Neil (new)

Neil | 2063 comments In my project whereby I read a Richard Powers novel each month for a year, I am up to month 5 which means Galatea 2.2 as I am reading them in publication order. This one is a delight for anyone reading them in order as its protagonist is Richard Powers and he discusses his first four books as part of the story.


message 15: by Sam (new)

Sam | 1713 comments I'll be starting the book Tuesday, then going along at my turtle's pace through the rest of the month. : )


message 16: by Neil (new)

Neil | 2063 comments Sam, have you read the books he published before Galatea 2.2?


message 17: by Sam (new)

Sam | 1713 comments Just Operation Wandering Soul and Gold Bug. Does Galatea reference Powers' first two books?


message 18: by Neil (new)

Neil | 2063 comments Yes it talks about all four preceding books. But you have probably read the main two it mentions.


message 19: by Sam (new)

Sam | 1713 comments I will start the book and if I feel I am spoiling my future reading of the first two, I'll stop and read ome of those instead. Thanks for the warning.


message 20: by Neil (new)

Neil | 2063 comments It won’t spoil the first two - you are safe.

And I have just now discovered (I didn’t spot this first time through) that he name check Plowing The Dark which wasn’t published until two books and five years later. Not sure he would have even started that one at this point, but it might be where the title came from.


message 21: by Sam (new)

Sam | 1713 comments I hope the prose is more controlled than Operation Wandering Soul. I was overall disappointed with the book after it started off so promising.


message 22: by Neil (new)

Neil | 2063 comments It is a very different book to OWS. I, too, struggled with OWS. In comparison with both that and Gold Bug, the prose is dialled right down in this one: it is far more accessible.


message 23: by Sam (new)

Sam | 1713 comments Good!!!


message 24: by Stephen (new)

Stephen | 168 comments So far I have only read The Overstory. I thought that was an epic story. Last week I picked up a copy of The Time of our Singing. Would I be correct in assuming this would be June's read for you Neil?


message 25: by Neil (last edited Mar 04, 2019 05:09AM) (new)

Neil | 2063 comments @Stephen - yes, that's right. I'm looking forward to that as it was my favourite after my first reading. I'll be taking it to Scotland with me on my holiday.

@Sam - the only thing to be wary of in Galatea is that Powers talks about the plot and the process of writing all his previous novels. Clearly, a lot of what he writes could well be fiction, but it is definitely set in his past (e.g. time spent in The Netherlands and at various educational institutions in the US). So, there are several pages that describe him writing Three Farmers and then, a bit later, some about writing Prisoner's Dilemma. I don't think knowing what he says spoils those other books, but it probably will colour your reading of them when you get to them. I read Galatea before I read his first two.


message 26: by Sam (new)

Sam | 1713 comments Neil wrote: "@Stephen - yes, that's right. I'm looking forward to that as it was my favourite after my first reading. I'll be taking it to Scotland with me on my holiday.

@Sam - the only thing to be wary of in..."


Thanks Neil,


message 27: by Ella (new)

Ella (ellamc) | 1018 comments Mod
Just a note that Richard Powers did By The Book for the NYTimes this week:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/28/bo...


message 28: by Antonomasia (new)

Antonomasia | 2629 comments Thanks for linking that, Ella, and welcome to the group!


message 29: by Antonomasia (new)

Antonomasia | 2629 comments It's interesting to see (and I'm glad that) he's continuing to be immersed in environmental themes. It's there in more of his answers than not. Even to the extent that his "ideal dinner party guests" are Rabindranath Tagore, John Muir and Rachel Carson.

Gives the impression his next book might also be on something to do with nature.


message 30: by Neil (new)

Neil | 2063 comments Ella - thanks - I am just catching up in a pub on the way home after a few days doing what Richard Powers would approve of: admiring nature.

Interesting answers.

There were rumours his next book would be sci-fi.


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 6973 comments I had the impression he wanted to effectively revisit The Overstory.

I think I read this in some interviews and some quick digging unearthed this as an example

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/chirev...


message 32: by Neil (new)

Neil | 2063 comments When Jonathan and I saw him in London, he said something along the lines of “Science fiction takes the non-human seriously, it is not taken seriously as literature” and suggested he might go there next.

The two ideas could work together.


message 33: by Ella (new)

Ella (ellamc) | 1018 comments Mod
Antonomasia wrote: "Thanks for linking that, Ella, and welcome to the group!"

Happy to do it, and thanks for the welcome, Antonomasia. This group is very intimidating, but I've been lurking for a long while and decided I'd finally join. ;) I was impressed by Powers' description of the redwood that kicked off his writing Overstory. He's always written nature beautifully (the opening of The Echo Maker is stunning in its depiction of a car accident from the perspective of the cranes.) As a retired musician, I find his writing about music equally beautiful. Perhaps this is why he's such a good writer. And I could easily see a sci-fi or post-apocalyptic novel based on what we've done to the earth. There are quite a few of them, but I'd happily read another if Richard Powers wrote it.


message 34: by Antonomasia (new)

Antonomasia | 2629 comments Thanks for joining - really interesting observations esp about Washington Black in the other thread (and more in depth and on topic than plenty of stuff posted in here!)


message 35: by Neil (new)

Neil | 2063 comments Just finished a re-read of Gain. Very different to his previous 5 novels (I am reading them in order) - much more straightforward and simpler language. But fascinating about the long term consequences of short term decisions.


message 36: by Neil (last edited Apr 26, 2019 12:04PM) (new)

Neil | 2063 comments For those thinking of joining in with our proposed (re-)read of The Time of Our Singing in June, there is a book that someone might like to take a look at: 'Schubert, Bach, Dowland - The Function of Music in Richard Power's "The Time of Our Singing"'.

Apart from the wrongly placed apostrophe in the title, it sounds like it might be interesting to those who like Powers and his writing about music. The only trouble is that it is £9.99 on Kindle and is only 39 pages long, so I for one will not be reading it! I don't know if it exists in paper form that can be borrowed from somewhere. And I don't know if it is actually worth reading.

I have to say that title grammar, price and length are making me doubt it is worth the effort/expense.


message 37: by Antonomasia (new)

Antonomasia | 2629 comments It appears to be a seminar paper from a German university.

Several of you will have access to journals databases via your old universities. Sites like JStor have lists of universities that give alumni access. (It is still worth checking if you were at uni a long time ago before everyone had current-style electronic logins, as you can usually get new logins that work with them now.) Whilst this particular paper might not be on there, there will be other academic publications about Powers.


message 38: by Antonomasia (new)

Antonomasia | 2629 comments Just from googling that paper without quotation marks, here are a couple of others that may be of interest. (No extra logins required.)

Lars Eckstein, Belonging in Music and the Music of Unbelonging in Richard Powers’s The Time of Our Singing (coference paper, 2005)
https://publishup.uni-potsdam.de/opus...

Pim Verheyen, Music in the Fiction of Richard Powers (Masters thesis, 2012)
https://www.academia.edu/4087175/Musi...


message 39: by Tom (new)

Tom | 199 comments I plan to join the June reading of TTOS. I’m planning to catch up on Powers, so if there’s one you’re all reading in May I may like to join that as well. Let me know. Thanks!


message 40: by Ella (new)

Ella (ellamc) | 1018 comments Mod
This has inspired me! I wanted to start at the beginning, but my house is in a state of flux and I can't put my hands on Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance (the "P" box overflowed into another letter, and I can't figure out which one.) Despite that, I do think I shall join in with you on the June The Time of Our Singing read, so I'll try to catch up meanwhile. That way I can get my Goldbug fix in on the way to joining you.

The Time of Our Singing is a novel I'm sort of unable to read without loads of emotion overwhelming me. I can't see past my own stuff to know if it's a "good" novel for anyone else, so it's somewhat gratifying to learn that other people feel it's special too.


message 41: by Neil (new)

Neil | 2063 comments Ella, thanks. It sounds like you will have some fascinating contributions to make to our discussion in June.


message 42: by Neil (new)

Neil | 2063 comments Tom, I am reading in publication order as is Sam, so we will be reading Plowing the Dark in May. This is one I wasn’t quite so sure about when I read it but I have recently read a few articles about it and I am really looking forward to reading it again with a fresh perspective.


message 43: by Neil (new)

Neil | 2063 comments Antonomasia - Thanks! That first article is relatively short and very interesting for those who are interested in Powers. The second one looks rather longer and I haven’t read it yet. At first glance it looks like it would be a good one to take a proper look at.


message 44: by Neil (new)

Neil | 2063 comments Just to note that a quick search for Richard Powers on academia.edu turns up some fascinating sounding papers.


message 45: by Karen Michele (new)

Karen Michele Burns (klibrary) | 199 comments I am planning on joining in on A Time of Our Singing as well. I have it on my shelf and I'm glad to get the extra push to pull it off. I am a Powers fan and may try to fit in Plowing the Dark in May as well. I have read many of his books but never The Gold Bug Variations, so I'm searching for a copy of that one since my library does not have it. I taught elementary school general music for 25 years before becoming a high school librarian so I have always loved the addition of music in his books. I am curious about how much a background or knowledge of music influences readers of his books and I look forward to looking up some articles and taking part in discussions.


message 46: by Sam (new)

Sam | 1713 comments Karen Michele wrote: "I am planning on joining in on A Time of Our Singing as well. I have it on my shelf and I'm glad to get the extra push to pull it off. I am a Powers fan and may try to fit in Plowing the Dark in Ma..."

My knowledge of music is rudimentary with enough knowledge of music to understand basic elements of composition and enough history to be aware of periods, composers, and their contributions. I encourage you to read The Gold-Bug Variations since Powers' comments on the Variations and Gould's renditions are a joy.


message 47: by Sam (new)

Sam | 1713 comments Understanding Richard Powers This is part of the Understanding Contemporary American Literature series and it contains a short biography and a chapter on each of Powers first 8 novels.
Rewiring the Real: In Conversation with William Gaddis, Richard Powers, Mark Danielewski, and Don Delillo This has an 80 page chapter on Powers' Plowing in the Dark and aims to define the philosophical, spiritual element.


message 48: by Neil (new)

Neil | 2063 comments I started my re-read of Plowing the Dark today. I am reading the Kindle version and I had forgotten about the large number of typos. Not sure if it is the same in the paper version?

I'm already making notes about the links back to Galatea 2.2 and forward to The Overstory.


message 49: by Sam (new)

Sam | 1713 comments Neil wrote: "I started my re-read of Plowing the Dark today. I am reading the Kindle version and I had forgotten about the large number of typos. Not sure if it is the same in the paper version?

I'm already ma..."


I noticed some of links as well, especially flashing forward to Overstory, though I didn't make enough notes. I am reading a hardcover and did not notice the typos.
I am always curious why authors choose to do certain things and I was wondering if you were struck by Powers' choice of the first work of art Adie replicates in the CAVERN, Rousseau's "The Dream."
I can only speculate but it is an interesting choice with many possible symbolic or thematic possibilities.


message 50: by Neil (new)

Neil | 2063 comments Sam, yes, I did get a copy of that picture up on my computer screen for a while to look at it. The most obvious thing is that it is full of the leaves and flowers that Adie needs to draw at that time, but, as you say, it is unlikely that Powers would be that obvious.


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