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Orfeoby Richard Powers
Synopses & Reviews
The National Book Award-winning author of The Echo Maker delivers his most emotionally charged novel to date, inspired by the myth of Orpheus.
"If Powers were an American writer of the nineteenth century...he'd probably be the Herman Melville of Moby-Dick. His picture is that big," wrote Margaret Atwood (New York Review of Books). Indeed, since his debut in 1985 with Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance, Richard Powers has been astonishing readers with novels that are sweeping in range, dazzling in technique, and rich in their explorations of music, art, literature, and technology.
In Orfeo, Powers tells the story of a man journeying into his past as he desperately flees the present. Composer Peter Els opens the door one evening to find the police on his doorstep. His home microbiology lab — the latest experiment in his lifelong attempt to find music in surprising patterns — has aroused the suspicions of Homeland Security. Panicked by the raid, Els turns fugitive. As an Internet-fueled hysteria erupts, Els — the "Bioterrorist Bach" — pays a final visit to the people he loves, those who shaped his musical journey. Through the help of his ex-wife, his daughter, and his longtime collaborator, Els hatches a plan to turn this disastrous collision with the security state into a work of art that will reawaken its audience to the sounds all around them. The result is a novel that soars in spirit and language by a writer who "may be America's most ambitious novelist" (Kevin Berger, San Francisco Chronicle).
"Powers's talent for translating avant-garde music into engrossing vignettes on the page is inexhaustible. Els's obsession with avant-garde, which isolates him from everyone he loves, becomes the very thing that aligns him with the reader." Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"The earmarks of the renowned novelist's work are here... but rarely have his novels been so tightly focused and emotionally compelling." Kirkus, Starred Review
"Very well-written." Library Journal
"Powers deftly dramatizes the obsession that has defined Els's life: 'How did music trick the body into thinking it had a soul?'" The New Yorker
"Powers is prodigiously talented. Besides being fearfully erudite, he writes lyrical prose, has a seductive sense of wonder and is an acute observer of social life....Why did I pick it up eagerly each day and find myself moist-eyed when I came to its last pages? That, I think, has everything to do with Powers's skill at putting us into the mind of his protagonist." New York Times Book Review
"Powers proves, once again, that he's a master of the novel with Orfeo, an engrossing and expansive read that is just as much a profile of a creative, obsessive man as it is an escape narrative." Esquire
"Orfeo is that rare novel truly deserving of the label 'lyrical'....Richard Powers offers a profound story whose delights are many and lasting." Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Orfeo reveals how a life, and the narrative of a life, accumulates, impossibly, infinitely, from every direction....In this retelling of the Orpheus myth Powers also manages enchantment." Slate
"Orfeo...establishes beyond any doubt that the novel is very much alive." Chicago Tribune
"Magnificent and moving." David Ulin, Los Angeles Times
"Extraordinary...his evocations of music, let alone lost love, simply soar off the page....Once again, Richard Powers proves himself to be one of our finest novelists." Newsday
"Since reviewing Richard Powers's second novel, Prisoner's Dilemma, in 1988, I've had to keep track of his age so that, when asked who to read, I can say, "Powers. He's the most important living American novelist under" whatever age he happens to be at the time. Now he's 56, and I believe only (in alphabetical order) DeLillo, Morrison, Pynchon, and Roth — all two decades older — stand above him. Of novelists in Powers's generation with whom he is often compared — Franzen, Vollmann, Wallace — none equals Powers's combination of consistent production, intellectual range, formal ingenuity, and emotional effect." Tom LeClair, Christian Science Monitor
"Biology and music, past and present, come together in a clever, explosive resolution." Boston Globe
"While it starts off with a thriller plotline — falsely accused bioterrorist on the run — Richard Powers's Orfeo constantly shifts gears." The Daily Beast
About the Author
Richard Powers is the author of eleven novels. He has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, the Lannan Literary Award, two Pushcart Prizes, and the National Book Award.
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