Photo credit: Leslie Shipman, the National Book Foundation
If you were in the audience at the Morgan Library yesterday evening and noticed an almost unshakable, unstoppable gale of laughter, well, that was me. I knew that any event featuring National Book Award winner Richard Powers (above, with your humble GalleyCat correspondent) and literary critic John Leonard would be amazing stuff, and the informal conversation comprising the second half of the evening was chock full of observations about the state of criticism, blogging’s place in the literary world, cognitive dissonance, Kurt Vonnegut‘s death, the need for endings and narrative and when the questions went to the audience, why Powers’s piece on using voice recognition software to write his novels has garnered him the most responses of anything he’s written.
But it was the first half, featuring the New York premiere of a new piece by Powers (the world premiere, so to speak, happened late last month at Penn State) that caught my attention immediately and held the audience pretty much in thrall the rest of the way. “The Moving Finger” recounts the curious adventures of a Powers-like narrator as he stumbles across the seemingly anonymous blog Speculum Mundi, whose Latin-named proprietor rants in “Camille Paglia meets NOVA” style about neuroscience, the relevance of literature and other topics to make it “12 percent more accurate than the leading literary blogs.” Slowly, Powers takes his narrator through startling cognitive changes that have him converge and diverge with the blogger in startling ways.