Like the critics the book group were split, most of them giving a score of 2! Their reasons were an effective challenge. Is the character/action detail peripheral and distracting? (Phillips main critic) But not all, and both Jo and Maggie got much out of the book. Needless to say, I did too and continue to.
How could The Overstory be considered a book of the year? asks the Guardian. Richard Powers’ novel has its heart in a fine place, but it works by browbeating the reader with lectures and daft melodrama. Why so many listed this as book of the year a book with such flaws. The Overstory is just so undemanding.
Rupert was funny – not enough mushrooms he said.
a central point – in his case, a giant redwood tree,
Richard Powers neatly brings his characters together around a central point – in his case, a giant redwood tree, with Powers writing eloquently about the interdependence of trees, how they help each other to spread and grow, and even warn each other about dangers using “aerosol signals”, one tree easing the way for others. And because the lives of his human characters take up just a few rings on that great tree’s trunk, we also come to a deeper understanding of time.
Don’t fit in
Neelay Mehta, a clumsily rendered Indian-American computer genius, lives an entirely separate life developing a computer game that only really fits in because the game’s structure is mixed in with tenuous metaphors about the “furious green speculations” of trees. Ray Brinkman and Dorothy Cazaly’s story (concerning a divorce that is postponed when Ray has a stroke) also feels at odds with the main narrative. The closest they get to the central protest is sometimes reading about it in newspapers. Powers uses the couple to crowbar in a few ideas about intellectual property and biological evolution, but otherwise they’re a distraction.
BIOGRAPHY and BOOKS
Richard Powers (born June 18, 1957) is an American novelist whose works explore the effects of modern science and technology. His novel The Echo Maker won the 2006 National Book Award for Fiction. He has also won many other awards over the course of his career, including a MacArthur Fellowship. As of 2018 Powers has published twelve novels and has taught at the University of Illinois and Stanford Universities. He won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Overstory.
Illinois. Aged 11-16 Thailand,
transfer from physics to English
Powers learned computer programming at Illinois as a user of PLATO.
first book, Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance, which was published by William Morrow in 1985. It comprises three alternating threads. Success of this provoked his move to Netherlands
Prisoner’s Dilemma, a work that juxtaposes Disney and nuclear warfare.
The Gold Bug Variations, a story that ties together genetics, music, and computer science.
Operation Wandering Soul (1993), a finalist for the National Book Award, features a young doctor dealing with the ugly realities of a pediatrics ward.
Galatea 2.2 (1995) is a Pygmalion story, about an artificial intelligence experiment gone awry.
Gain (1998) is a look at the history of a 150-year-old chemical company, interwoven with the story of a woman living near one of its plants and succumbing to ovarian cancer. It won the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Best Historical Fiction in 1999.
Plowing the Dark (2000) is another novel with parallel narratives
The Time of Our Singing (2003) is a story about the musician children of an interracial couple who met at Marian Anderson’s legendary concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939. Powers displays his knowledge of music and physics in this exploration of race relations and the burdens of talent.
The Echo Maker (2006), won a National Book Award and was a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction finalist. The novel tells the story of a young man whose brain is injured in a truck accident. An important character is a consulting neurologist, modeled to some degree on Oliver Sacks and perhaps Gerald Edelman.
Generosity: An Enhancement, 2009. It features a writing instructor named Russell Stone, who encounters one of his students, Thassa, an Algerian woman who is constantly happy. Meanwhile, journalists and scientists hope to exploit Thassa’s joyfulness for financial gain.
Orfeo, 2014. Peter Els, a retired music composition instructor and avant-garde composer, is mistaken for a bio-terrorist after being discovered with a makeshift genetics lab in his house.
The Overstory, 2018, and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize on September 20, 2018 and for the $75,000 2019 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award. It won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The Overstory was the 2019 runner-up for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.
Margaret Atwood Powers is not a painter of miniatures. Of the two extremes of American mannerist style, the minimalist or Shaker chair (Dickinson, Hemingway, Carver) and the maximalist or Gilded Age (Whitman, James, Jonathan Safran Foer), Powers inclines toward the latter. He gets his effects by repetition, by a Goldberg Variation–like elaboration of motifs, by cranking up the volume and pulling out all the stops”.