Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Big Dance

#10 -- "Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance" by Richard Powers

Oh, hey, I may have a new candidate for favorite writer. First "Gold Bug Variations," last year blew my mind -- and now this one, which I was sorta nervous about picking up due to the prospect of disappointment, is really fantastic as well.

It starts with the titular photograph, by August Sander (below), shot just before the outbreak of hostilities in World War I. It uses that as the springboard for three loosely-connected storylines -- one surrounding the three young men shown in the photograph, the other two late-20th-century Americans who find themselves affected in different ways by that picture.

And in the course of telling those three stories -- all well-done and well-characterized -- Powers manages to take on much larger themes -- technology, war, love, and a sort of history of the 20th century.

It's not light. But he's got such a fantastic style that I didn't get bogged down at all. Nowhere near as tech-heavy as "Gold Bug," it may be more a novel of ideas. Once again, highly recommended, and as soon as I can buy books again without feeling guilty, I'll be getting the rest of his output.

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