James Gibbons

  • His Back Pages

    Paul Auster should not exist. I say this not to mimic a sentence that might easily have been plucked from one of his own hall-of-mirrors fictions, but simply to note his singular position in contemporary American letters. He has enjoyed unlikely success by writing reflexive novels that take up notions of chance and fate, memory and oblivion, luck and the uncanny; given his self-referential leanings and taste for highbrow allusion, it might seem that he would at best have found a coterie of admirers and a university appointment to subsidize his writing. Instead, he has settled comfortably into

  • Beyond Recognition

    The latest novel by Richard Powers, The Echo Maker, had its origin, as any good book probably should, in a visionary experience. "I'd taken a long cross-country trip down to Arizona and was heading back home to Illinois through Nebraska," he told me when I phoned him in Urbana, home to the university where he teaches. "I'd been driving for a very long time and suddenly saw this hallucinatory sight of birds along the Platte River." What Powers had stumbled upon was a breathtaking phase of the annual sandhill crane migration, in which an enormous congregation of these birds—half a million cranes,