Powers (Richard and otherwise)


Richard Powers is arguably my favorite novelist. His ability to hybridize science and art and to weave such disparate languages into a unified whole is unparalleled. i do not think, however, that he is the greatest novelist living. He absolutely has the potential, but one thing stands in his way, i believe: himself. If you are not familiar with his works, stop reading this and go read at least three of his books immediately. Don’t expect to chug through them in a week either. Anticipate needing at least two weeks for each, as his language is thick and challenging and laden like no other writer i know. This is his greatest asset as a writer, but at times it is also his greatest fault. Many times his message is extraordinarily powerful and even necessary, and yet it is possible to find oneself halfway through a novel having no idea what it is about. His message has gotten lost in his craft. Gertrude’s advice for him would be, at times, “more matter with less art” (Hamlet, 2-2). {Side note – this is not intended as criticism of his work, as he is undoubtedly far beyond my level of expertise, and i will be extremely grateful if i can ever produce even one work half as brilliant as his worst.}

i have referred to this very phenomenon a few times myself, though not quite explicitly. (See Concision and micropoem.) Here’s the story: i have a novel that is sitting at about 20,000 words, and not a single thing has happened yet. It is 20,000 words of exposition that is still just introducing exposition. Perhaps novel writing will not be my calling, i do not know. But the point is this: as my writing goes, almost invariably so goes my spiritual life. Or rather, the converse is true. My writing is actually a symptom of my heart’s condition. And most often, that condition is verbosity. This stems quite simply from self-indulgence. It is not enough simply to be an instrument of truth, a channel for a positive message, my heart also needs desperately to be recognized for being that voice. Thus i add line after line of pontification to works that should otherwise be brief, and ultimately what i am attempting to say gets lost in how i am attempting to say it.

It was a message on 1 Corinthians 2 : 1 – 5 that reminded me of this today, and it was precisely what i needed to hear. In my writing, in my speech, in my activities, in everything i do, may i always remember that it is not me that needs to be seen or heard, but Him. For it is in His Word that the power lies, not in mine. There have been many instances lately where i have been tempted to use my craftiness to try to make the gospel sound appealing. This is incalculably dangerous. Firstly, because i am most likely doing this either out of self-preservation (so people don’t think i’m a kook) or out of self-love (so that people know i am super-knowledgeable), depending on context. This is obviously unacceptable. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it is just unnecessary. The gospel is intact, and lacking in nothing, thus in adding to it i am really only subtracting. People are going to accept it or not based on it’s own merits, and this is how it should be, else if they have accepted what i have said about it instead of it for it’s own sake, then they have probably missed out on the gospel altogether.

Perhaps this whole exercise in writing has been an elaborate way of teaching me that no matter how crafty i believe myself to be, i am still powerless without Him. And if this has been it’s point, then i thank Him for the lesson, and pray that i will remember it this time.


And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom…so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.     – 1 Corinthians 2 : 1, 5

3 thoughts on “Powers (Richard and otherwise)

  1. In my writing, in my speech, in my activities, in everything i do, may i always remember that it is not me that needs to be seen or heard, but Him. For it is in His Word that the power lies, not in mine.



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