Orfeo (Powers)

It took me a while to decide to try this one. I think it was the National Book Award consideration that did it. That, and I’d enjoyed The Echo Maker. It took me some time to get into this story that’s partly about music and partly about biology, but when the two strands – and I use the word deliberately – came together, I was really impressed. The book’s final third is both earned and elegant. I first started marking sentences just shy of the 300th page, and the underlining came fast and furious after that. Powers’ always good writing rises to new levels. Powers’ story intersects with the contemporary incidents that are alluded to more than described; still, they are essential. As much as his protagonist, Peter Els, wanted to compose a brave new world, he now lives in one. While I can’t say I followed all of the insights offered about music or its history, I followed enough to make this quite a worthwhile read.

And, in the way one of Els’ compositions intersects (much to his chagrin) with real life, this book did as well. Consider –

You Can Help Write A Modern Symphony About Detroit; Composer Asks For Your Sounds Of The City


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