Richard Stephen Powers, born in Evanston, Illinois, on June 18, 1957, is the son of Richard Franklin Powers, a school administrator, and Donna Powers, a secretary and administrative assistant. In 1968 Powers, his parents, and his four siblings relocated to Bangkok, Thailand, where for the next four years the father was an administrator in the International School of Bangkok.
Returning to the United States when Powers was fifteen, the family settled in De Kalb, Illinois. In 1975 he entered the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a physics major but soon became an English and rhetoric major. Having maintained a straight-A grade average, he completed his bachelor’s degree in 1978 and a master’s degree in English in late 1979, moving to Boston early the following year.
In Boston, he became a computer programmer and data processor. He was employed briefly by a large corporation, but, pressured to advance into management, he quit his job, became a freelance computer specialist, and devoted himself to writing. During this period, he stumbled upon a photograph, “Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance” (1914), by August Sander. The date was significant: Europe verged on war.
The photograph became the basis for Powers’s first novel, Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance, a multiplot work that won the PEN/Faulkner Award and was among the finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award. With the publication of this well-received initial novel, Powers clearly established himself as a serious author, comparable in many ways to such pioneering European writers as James Joyce, Thomas Mann, Marcel Proust, Hermann Hesse, and others at the...
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