Richard Powers

"Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance"

(Reviewed by Judi Clark FEB 9, 1998)

For a third of a century, I got by nicely without Detroit. First off, I don't do well in cars and have never owned one. The smell of anything faintly resembling car seats gives me motion sickness. That alone had always ranked Motor City a solid third from bottom of American Cities I'd Like to See. I always rely on scenery to deaden the inconvenience of travel, and "Detroit scenery" seemed as self-contradictory as "movie actress," "benign cancer," "gentlemen of the press,"' or "American Diplomacy." For my entire conscious life I'd successfully ignored the city. But one day two years ago, Detroit ambushed me before I could get out of its way.

This is Powers' first book and it is remarkable! Powers ties a photograph of three farmers to the core of the novel. In so doing, he brings us through World War I, the industrial revolution and the computer age. Just as he weaves this tale (and not in chronological order) he mixes real people with the fictional.  If you have ever looked at an old photograph and wondered about the circumstances as to when it was taken, you will appreciate the approach of this writer. From one photo, Powers has written a book about the entire twentieth century.
  • Amazon readers rating: from 20 reviews.

Read a chapter excerpt from Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance at Harper Collins


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About the Author:

Richard PowersRichard Powers was born in Evanston, Illinois in 1957 and grew upon the north side of Chicago, in a suburb called Lincolnwood. When he was eleven, his family moved to Bangkok, Thailand. He returned to the United States to finish High School.

He enrolled as a physics major at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign but switched to literature and received his M.A. in 1979. He worked as computer programmer in Boston, Massachusetts after he graduated. A photograph at the Museum of Fine Arts inspired him to quit his job and he spent the next two years wither his first novel which was published in 1985.

He then moved to the Netherlands, where he wrote his next two novels. He started Operation Wandering Soul, his fourth book and a finalist for the National Book Award, while he was the University of Cambridge and finished it when he returned to the University of Illinois in 1992, where he became writer-in-residence.

He was a 1989 MacArthur Fellow and recipient of a 1999 Lannan Literary Award. His novel The Echo Maker won the 2006 National Book Award.

He teaches in the Creative Writing M.F.A. program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. About Us | Subscribe | Review Team | History | ©1998-2014