The Zealotry of J. F. Powers

Charles McGrath at The Hudson Review:

Like a lot of zealots, especially of the writerly sort, Powers was a perfectionist. His style, so clear and natural, came only with effort. His friend Sean O’Faolain liked to joke that Powers could spend a whole morning putting in a comma, and then the whole afternoon taking it out. “I don’t care to get a book out just to get a book out,” he wrote to a friend. “I’d rather make each one count—and in order to do that the way I nuts around, it takes time.” But it’s also true that Powers spent a great deal of time not writing. He insisted on going to a rented office every day—while Betty took care of cooking, cleaning, and raising the children—but, once there, he often just futzed around, reading the paper, rearranging the furniture, watching a ladybug crawl across an envelope. While in Ireland, he went to the races a lot and, like the writer in “Tinkers,” spent hours in auction houses bidding on useless stuff he couldn’t afford.

more here.