Synopses & Reviews
A wry, moving collection of letters from the late J. F. Powers, “a comic writer of genius” (Mary Gordon)
Best known for his 1963 National Book Award-winning novel, Morte DUrban, and as a master of the short story, J. F. Powers drew praise from Evelyn Waugh, Flannery OConnor, Saul Bellow, and Philip Roth, among others. Though Powerss fiction dwelt chiefly on the lives of Catholic priests, he long planned to write a novel of family life, a feat he never accomplished. He did, however, write thousands of letters, which, selected here by his daughter, Katherine A. Powers, become an intimate version of that novel, dynamic with plot and character. They show a dedicated artist, passionate lover, reluctant family man, pained aesthete, sports fan, and appreciative friend. At times wrenching and sad, at others ironic and exuberantly funny, Suitable Accommodations is the story of a man at odds with the world and, despite his faith, with his church. Beginning in prison, where Powers spent more than a year as a conscientious objector, the letters move on to his courtship, marriage, comically unsuccessful attempt to live in the woods, life in the Midwest and in Ireland, an unorthodox view of the Catholic Church, and an increasingly bizarre search for “suitable accommodations,” which included three full-scale emigrations to Ireland. Here, too, are encounters with such diverse people as Thomas Merton, Eugene McCarthy, Robert Lowell, Theodore Roethke, Sean OFaolain, Frank OConnor, Dorothy Day, and Alfred Kinsey.
An NPR Best Book of 2013
"In his fiction, Powers (1917 1999), the celebrated Catholic writer best known for his National Book Award winning 1963 novel Morte D'Urban, explored the culture of postwar American Catholicism and the lives of Midwestern priests. These vibrant letters, collected and edited by his daughter, Katherine, reveal a restless, promising writer and family man with a wry sense of humor and a hunger for literary camaraderie. The daily business of balancing the needs of his wife and five children with his work often had the family on the move throughout the Midwest, and four relocations to Ireland, as they hunted for the perfect home, a part-time teaching position, or an ideal landscape that might allow Powers to have time to write. He intended to publish a novel about family life, but as his daughter explains in the introduction, Powers was 'not only living but creating and embellishing it in his correspondence.' The bulk of the letters were written to longtime friend and patron Father Harvey Egan and to Powers's wife, Betty, when the two were apart. Other noted correspondents include Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Hardwick, Jack Conroy, and Katherine Anne Porter. While primarily for Powers scholars, this collection serves as a touching portrait of one writer's struggle. Agent: Andrew Blauner, Blauner Books Literary Agency." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
J. F. Powers died in 1999 at the age of eighty-one. His two novels and a collected volume of his short stories are available as NYRB Classics. Katherine A. Powers is a book columnist and reviews books widely.