Fiction Richard Powers Orfeo: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780393240825

Orfeo: A Novel

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9780393240825: Orfeo: A Novel

A Chicago Tribune 'Best Books of 2014'
New York Times Bestseller
Longlisted for The Man Booker Prize
Longlisted for the National Book Award

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).

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About the Author:

Richard Powers is the author of twelve novels, most recently Orfeo. He is the recipient of a MacArthur grant and the National Book Award, and he has been a Pulitzer Prize and four-time NBCC finalist. He lives in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.

From Booklist:

*Starred Review* Retired composer Peter Els has an unusual hobby, do-it-yourself genetic engineering. Is his work dangerous? We’re not sure, but when hazmat-suited government agents descend on his home, he flees, becoming perhaps the world’s least likely suspected terrorist, the “biohacker Bach.” On his prolonged cross-country journey, we learn Els’ life story in flashback: how he fell in love with music and with a woman, went to school at the height of the avant garde, and began a lifelong struggle between the urge to invent and the need to please. World events, from JFK’s assassination to 9/11 to H5N1, provide a kind of tragic meter. Els’ leap from music to genetics seems forced at first, but Powers (a National Book Award winner for The Echo Maker, 2006) plays the long game, sure-handedly building a rich metaphor in which composition is an analog for other kinds of human invention, with all the beauty and terror that implies. Like his protagonist, he makes art that challenges rather than reassures his audience. Powers has a way of rendering the world that makes it seem familiar and alien, friendly and frightening. He is sometimes criticized as too cerebral, but when the story’s strands knit fully together in the final act, the effect is heartbreaking and beautiful. --Keir Graff

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