1963 -- Morte d’Urban

In his 2007 retrospective essay on Morte d’Urban, Jonathan Yardley says that he has read the novel four times, and that the fourth reading, forty-five years after the first one, left him “as convinced as ever that the oblivion into which it seems to have sunk is inexplicable and wholly undeserved”:

I am struck more sharply than ever before by how Powers turns this story of a go-getter priest into a metaphor for the world of business. It's a much better novel than Sinclair Lewis's far more famous Babbitt: subtler, wittier and much more elegantly written.

There are two usual explanations for the disappearance of Powers’ books from the shelves, sometimes even his name from the literary histories. One is that, as a Catholic writer, he confined himself too narrowly to priests and parish life, in a way that Walker Percy, Flannery O’Connor and other mid-century Catholic writers did not. The other explanation is that he wrote too little — three story collections and two novels in a fifty-year career. One tribute to Powers after his death dubbed him “the patron saint of slow writers; his daughter Katherine said that he “had powers of procrastination that went far beyond the merely amateur.”

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