Don’t miss Andrew Leonard on Richard Powers

I first encountered Andrew Leonard when Steve pointed me to the column “How the World Works” at Salon.com. Filled with keen observations about globalization, right at the moment when globalization was changing everything, Steve spotted it as being just the sort of thing I was interested in at the time.

The column wrapped up a while ago—globalization is just how things are now—but I’ve kept up with Leonard’s writing, so today I spotted his latest essay, The astonishing power of Richard Powers.

I’ve been aware of Power’s novels for a long time, because he was a local sf writer, sort of, on the faculty at the University of Illinois. (I gather he just last year took a position at Stanford.)

His work is only sort of sf; it’s more literary than genre. It’s very well-regarded, but my few attempts to read it were unsuccessful: it seemed deliberately opaque. I grasped that the stylistic choices were intended to make the book’s form echo the book’s intent, but in my couple of experiments, they didn’t work for me.

This essay, though, almost convinces me to give more of his books a try. Certainly I’ll take a look at his latest, Orfeo.

But the essay is interesting beyond that. Despite having followed Leonard’s work at Salon for years, I was completely unaware that his father was “the youngest editor in chief in the history of the New York Times Book Review.”

I found in the younger Leonard’s experiences an echo of my own—choosing to be a writer when my father is one of the best writers I know.

A great essay. Long, but well worth reading.

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