The Music of Big Questions

The Music of Big Questions,” a review of Orfeo by Nathaniel Rich, New York Review of Books, February 20, 2014.

Richard Powers has equal claim to being the most forward-looking American novelist and the most old-fashioned. What is old-fashioned is his unabashed desire to write novels that are, in their essence, philosophical. His novels tend to possess the qualities we expect from the best literature—vivid characters, engrossing stories, and surprising, at times glorious prose—but Powers’s greatest interest often seems to lie in asking, if not always answering, the most vexing questions about history, science, race, art, time, wisdom, and joy.

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