[percy-l] Here’s to Unsuicide: An Interview with Richard Powers - Los Angeles Review of Books
jp at jlarsp.com
Wed Jan 16 15:05:45 EST 2019
I read the interview with great interest, as Percy and Powers are among the small handful of writers who have most influenced me. I’ve read pretty much all that both have published, and I discovered Powers not that long after Percy had died, so in a way reading them has constituted different eras in my life. Both novelists are interested in our human predicament and in exploring how to find our way out of or through it towards a reverence for all life, as both Henry and Lauren say.
Both novelists are on a search, through their characters, for meaning and purpose in our lives. I’ve read numerous interviews with Powers and unlike Percy, he does not seem to have a religious background, or at least he has been private about that part of his life. He is from the Chicago area, and lived from about age 11 to 16 in Bangkok when his father worked at an International School.
There are some similarities to Percy’s biography and breadth of interests. While Percy studied to be a physician before becoming a novelist, Powers started out studying physics before turning to writing fiction. His broad interests have made it into his novels where he has explored artificial intelligence, genetics, and computer science as well as medicine and music. He won a MacArthur Fellowship in the late ‘80s. I was first turned on to him in the early ‘90s. A friend of mine who went to the University of Illinois—where Powers had also gone—told of one of his English professors talking about Powers, who had previously been his student. The professor predicted that Powers would one day win the Nobel Prize. Since Percy died, Powers is the novelist whose new work I anticipate and seek out with the greatest eagerness. (After reading this interview, I want to read Kim Stanley Robinson and Lydia Millet).
The interview here focuses mainly on his newest novel, The Overstory, which is also perhaps his most ambitious and epic book. It is well worth the effort, and if any reader were looking for a less daunting place to start, I would say The Echo Maker, his 2006 National Book Award winner. In some ways it may be his most Percian novel, in its exploration of epistemology and our search to find our place in the universe. It may be my favorite novel, or perhaps right near the top with Percy’s The Second Coming.
> On Jan 15, 2019, at 3:54 AM, Henry P. Mills <wppdirector at gmail.com> wrote:
> Fascinating interview, Lauren. Thanks for sharing. Reminds me a bit of Albert Schweitzer’s driving philosophy of developing “reverence for life” - that is, reverence for all creation in the universe, from our fellow human beings to nature itself. I don’t know Powers’ spiritual or religious background, and those given his affinity for Percy. Anyone care to chime in about Powers?
>> On Jan 12, 2019, at 8:35 AM, Lauren Berdy <lauren.stacy.berdy at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Of what use is the writer or poet unless he attains a new vision of life?
>> It is precisely why we read Dr Percy the innovator who helps to form the great chain of creative literature. He didn’t sit comfortably down in the ruins and piece together shards. Richard Powers too speaks to our human horizon and predicament and brings in
>> Dr Percy to show how humans must “hold the gain” in their cultivated souls.
>> Sent from my iPad
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