I was recently at home in Chicago and came across an email I received from the extraordinary encyclopedic novelist Richard Powers. I forget, exactly, but I think I emailed him cold out of the blue, to ask if he’d blurb my then-forthcoming first novel, The White City. I also wrote to Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo, but that’s another story for another time.
Richard was kind enough to write back, even if he wouldn’t officially blurb the book, and we did an interview together a couple years later, which appeared in The Believer and The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers. Since enough time has passed, now, and not to toot the book’s horn, I wanted to share a bit of what he said in the correspondence dated September 30, 2003:
I spent the weekend reading through your finished work. You have written a very gripping story with some remarkably chilling scenes. What begins as a realistic, mimetic fiction gradually changes, by degree, against that remarkable historical backdrop that you portray so adeptly, into a resonant allegory of light and darkness, enlightenment versus degradation, the public glory and private horror of humankind. It’s a terrific set of images and events, very atmospherically depicted. I wish you all the critical success and many readers that your well-spun tale deserves.
Unfortunately, a certain other book written about the same subject hogged all the spotlight, and the novel didn’t get much attention, critical or otherwise. But the approval from one of my writer-heroes still brings a chill up my spine. So, all you aspiring writers out there, don’t hesitate reaching out to your heroes–they might write back.