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AN INTERVIEW WITH Richard Powers RICHARD POWERS Richard Powers has published eight novels, including Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance, The Gold Bug Variations, Galatea 2.2, Gain, Plowing the Dark and, most recently, The Time ofOur Singing. Powers has been nominated for a National Book Award and is a three-time nominee for a National Book Critics Circle Award. He is a past recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship (1989), as well as of a Lannan Literary Award (1999). In 1999, Esquire magazine named him one of five "Writers of the Decade." Randall Fuller is Assistant Professor of English at Drury University. He is currently at work on a novel. AN INTERVIEW WITH RICHARD POWERS/ Randall Fuller Interviewer: You were born in the Midwest and moved to Thailand at age eleven. What effect did that experience have on you as a writer? Powers: That's such a huge question. It presumes I could somehow know what kind of writer I would have been had I not gone. But I know it affected my entire life—linguistically, intellectually, emotionally , culturally. I lived in Bangkok from the age of eleven to sixteen, then came back to the States and finished high school in Illinois. But the years I spent overseas are so incredibly formative, the last years of childhood and the first years of young adulthood. The fact that I was speaking Thai at age eleven and was traveling all over Asia and Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore, not to mention going on several trips around the world—all this allowed me a knowledge of the place where I'd come from (namely middle America, in every sense of the word) that I surely wouldn't have acquired had I stayed at home in Chicago. Interviewer: A number of your novels have been written while you were living abroad. Powers: Yes. I lived for a long time in Northern Europe as an adult, in the Netherlands, and I suppose there's something about the earlier wandering at a young age that kept me subsequently dislocated. For me writing is the act of trying to find a home among dislocation. When you leave at an early age, when your baseline experience becomes the transitory quality of any place you might live—the outside feeling of coming to a place that's notyours—all ofthose things lay down a pretty heavy inclination toward being an eccentric, outside observer no matter where you are. Never again can you experience that same feeling The Missouri Review · 99 of privilege or belonging or appropriateness that you might have otherwise . Writing, for me, is often about what a place looks like when you're passing through or when you've been kicked out or otherwise disenfranchised. Interviewer: What motivated your decision to engage in this outsider activity? Powers: I've always thought that writing was less a vocation than a methodology, a process I can use to attach to all sorts of other domains. The lucky break of my life has been finding a way to make a living from a broad interest in a number of domains—domains where I wouldn't necessarily have wanted to live. If I were to retrace the process by which I became a writer, I would say that my teens were pretty fraught with anxiety, not so much over choosing what I wanted to be when I grew up but over all the millions of things I wouldn't be able to be if I made any choice. I was conscious that every decision created a million deaths. Interviewer: Where did you start? Powers: I entered college as a physics major. My belief was that physics —with its fundamental intellectual premises, its grappling with materiality at a basic level—would afford me an aerial view of the world. My discovery, of course, was thatall of the empirical disciplines have succeeded through a reductionist program. That program insists that the whole can be understood through the part. Your contribution to a particular discipline depends on your staking out a fairly specific and bounded area of the map and getting more and more knowledgeable about smaller and smaller...


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