Orfeo is a heady and welcome exploration of artistic ambition and the anguish to which one must subject himself to be a true artist. It braces the reader with the big questions, while presenting a compelling main character toward whom a reader should be, at many turns, viscerally compassionate. Powers’ prose is at all-time elegance, issuing forth with restrained authority. Some passages make one set the book down and stare into the middle-distance. An easy read, it is not. It makes easy reading seem like a waste of time.