Overstory (Powers) - Author Bio

Author Bio
Birth—June 18, 1957
Where—Evanston, Illinois, USA
Education—M.A., University of Illinois
Awards—Pulitizer Prize, National Book Award-Fiction
Currently—lives in the Smoky Mountian region of Tennessee

Richard Powers is an American novelist whose works explore the effects of modern science and technology. The Echo Maker, perhaps his best known work, won the 2006 National Book Award for Fiction.

Early years
One of five children, Powers was born in Evanston, Illinois. His family later moved a few miles south to Lincolnwood where his father was a local school principal. When Powers was 11 they moved to Bangkok, Thailand, where his father had accepted a position at International School Bangkok, which Powers attended through his freshman year, ending in 1972.

During that time outside the U.S. he developed skill in vocal music and proficiency in cello, guitar, saxophone, and clarinet. He also became an avid reader, enjoying nonfiction, primarily, and classics such as the Iliad and the Odyssey.

The family returned to the U.S. when Powers was 16. Following graduation in 1975 from DeKalb High School in DeKalb, Illinois, he enrolled at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) with a major in physics, which he switched to English literature during his first semester. There he earned the BA in 1978 and the MA in Literature in 1980.

He decided not to pursue the PhD partly because of his aversion to strict specialization, which had been one reason for his early transfer from physics to English, and partly because he had observed in graduate students and their professors a lack of pleasure in reading and writing (as portrayed in Galatea 2.2).

For some time Powers worked in Boston, as a computer programmer. Viewing the 1914 photograph "Young Farmers" by August Sander, on a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts, he was inspired to quit his job and spend the next two years writing his first book, Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance, which was published in 1985.

To avoid the publicity and attention generated by that first novel, Powers moved to the Netherlands where he wrote Prisoner's Dilemma, followed up with The Gold Bug Variations. During a year's stay at the University of Cambridge, he wrote most of Operations Wandering Soul; then, in 1992 Powers returned to the U.S. to become writer-in-residence at the University of Illinois.

All told, Powers has published a dozen books, winning him numerous literary awards and other recognitions. These include, among various others, a MacArthur Fellowship; Pushcart Prize, PEN/Faulkner Special Citation, Man Booker long listing; nominations for the Pulitzer and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and the National Book Award itself in 2006.

In 2010 and 2013, Powers was a Stein Visiting Writer at Stanford University, during which time he partly assisted in the lab of biochemist Aaron Straight. In 2013, Stanford named him the Phil and Penny Knight Professor of Creative Writing in the Department of English.

While writing his 2018 novel, The Overstory, Powers left Palo Alto, California, moving to the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 4/16/2018.)

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