Nathaniel Rich reviews Richard Powers' novel Orfeo, about a fictionbal composer, Peter Els:
Orfeo begins in “the tenth year of the altered world,” or 2011, when Els is seventy. This makes him a few years younger than the so-called minimalists La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass, and six years older than John Adams. Els admires all of these composers—the novel even includes an extended appreciation of Reich’s Proverb. As a character he seems modeled after them, at least in part. Like them, Els becomes a “Minimalist, with maximal yearnings,” who layers “ecstatic melodies over driving syncopations.” But professionally he is a minimalist in a different sense: in his entire life he has finished only a handful of pieces, and when the novel begins, he hasn’t written a note in eighteen years.