Orfeo: A Novel (Hardcover)
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February 2014 Indie Next List
“Orfeo is the kind of novel that creeps slowly into a reader's consciousness and makes a home there. A beautiful, cerebral book that's as concerned with the past and how the decisions made by protagonist Peter Els shaped his personal philosophies and relationships and how music played a role in it all, as it is with the very real present and how Peter's hobbyist interest in DNA makes him an accidental bioterrorism threat. Orfeo is an intelligent and incredibly moving portrait of the role of art in both one man's life and society as a whole. Stunning!”
— Lauren Wiser, Left Bank Books, Saint Louis, MO
From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Overstory, an emotionally charged novel 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).
— David Ulin - Los Angeles Times
Of novelists in Powers's generation with whom he is often compared—Franzen, Vollmann, Wallace—none equals Powers's combination of consistent production, intellectual range, formal ingenuity, and emotional effect.
— Tom LeClair - Christian Science Monitor
For sheer bravado in constructing sentences, few authors of contemporary fiction can surpass Powers.
— Ted Gioia - San Francisco Chronicle
Part of the fun of reading [Powers] is to see how he wriggles out of his own snares. But a greater thrill is to join with him in untangling the most urgent and confounding puzzles of our age.
— Nathaniel Rich - New York Times Book Review
One long express-train ride to the gorgeous. And the scenery is as sublime as ever.
— Laura Miller - Salon
Orfeo is that rare novel truly deserving of the label 'lyrical'…Powers offers a profound story whose delights are many and lasting.
— Harvey Freedenberg - Minneapolis Star Tribune
Orfeo benefits from the deep sympathy Powers seems to feel for the brilliant and troubled protagonist he has created…[It] establishes beyond any doubt that the novel is very much alive.
— Troy Jollimore - Chicago Tribune