Beyond the Blurb: On Critics and Criticism. Published by Cow Eye Press

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Steven Augustine

Deresiewicz's attack on Powers is a second-string version of Wood's attack on the Wood-labelled 'Hysterical Realists' (DeLillo being the dean of a stylistic school that somnehow includes Zadie Smith and J. Franzen) and is banal nonsense for the same reason that Wood's little post-9/11 manifesto was erudite nonsense. My only problem with Powers, ever, was the sometimes very weak music of his sentences (esp. in 'The Time of Our Singing')...reaching so high (DeLillosphere) and falling so short. As far as this 'coldness' riff goes...that's the stick they most often seem to beat really smart novelists with. It'd be nice if only the really smart critics reviewed the really smart novelists, wouldn't it?


I think you make a number of good points, Dan. One reason I didn't post about this novel when I read it is that I also had a hard time getting through certain parts of the book. This has also never happened with a Powers book for me. I wasn't sure whether the problem was me, but I found myself losing focus on some of the ideas (which were interesting, sure) and not caring all that much about the mystery behind the note, for example, etc.

Of course, I agree that Deresiewicz's review was inept, as I wrote here:

Incidentally, I wonder what you think of Operation Wandering Soul. I got the impression, I think from the comments to your post about The Time of Our Singing, that you thought it (Operation) was also "too earnest for your taste", or something like that. I'd agree it's more earnest than his other novels (up to Plowing the Dark, say), but I felt that the manner in which he intertwined the other narratives (about the Pied Piper, the Childrens' Crusade, etc) was quite effective. Anyway, just curious.


I haven't read the new Powers yet, but I see in this discussion a very simple, potent idea that few people seem to embrace--that we shouldn't try to fit a book into our own mental categories of what a novel (or other "kind" is) but experience whatever magic it has to offer without preconception.


Interesting observations, Dan. However, I must correct a misperception. For the roundtable discussions, I'm happy to invite those with quibbles about the book and would have certainly welcomed this dissenting post.

Dan Green

I'm sure you would have, Ed. I was the one who thought it would be out of place in an effort to otherwise highlight Powers as an important writer.

Richard: Prior to The Time of Our Singing, I would indeed have said that Wandering Soul was Powers's most overly earnest novel.

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