J. F. Powers

James Farl Powers (July 8, 1917 – June 12, 1999) was an American novelist and short-story writer who often drew his inspiration from developments in the Catholic Church, and was known for his studies of Catholic priests in the Midwest. Although not a priest himself, he is known for having captured a "clerical idiom" in postwar North America.

J. F. Powers
J F Powers
BornJames Farl Powers
July 8, 1917
Jacksonville, Illinois, U.S.
DiedJune 12, 1999 (aged 81)
Collegeville, Minnesota, U.S.
OccupationNovelist and short-story writer

Early life

Powers was born in Jacksonville, Illinois to a devout Catholic family. He graduated from Quincy College Academy, a Franciscan high school. He took English and philosophy courses at Wright Junior College and at Northwestern University in Chicago, but did not earn a degree. He had various jobs, such as insurance salesman, sales clerk, editor and bookstore clerk.


Powers was a conscientious objector during World War II, and went to prison for it. Later he worked as a hospital orderly.[1] His first writing experiment began as a spiritual exercise during a religious retreat.

His work has long been admired for its gentle satire and its astonishing ability to recreate with a few words the insular but gradually changing world of post-World War II American Catholicism. Evelyn Waugh, Flannery O'Connor, and Walker Percy praised his work, and Frank O'Connor spoke of him as "among the greatest living storytellers".[2]

Prince of Darkness and Other Stories appeared in 1947. His story "The Valiant Woman" received the O. Henry Award in 1947.[3] The Presence of Grace (1956) was also a collection of short stories. His first novel was Morte d'Urban (1962), which won the 1963 National Book Award for Fiction.[4] Look How the Fish Live appeared in 1975 and Wheat that Springeth Green in 1988.

Powers lived in Ireland for thirteen years. After moving back and forth from Ireland, he settled with his family in Collegeville, Minnesota, where he taught creative writing and English literature at Saint John's University.[5]

Following his death in 1999, the New York Review reissued his novels and published The Stories of J. F. Powers in 2000. The Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center has collected the records or Manuscript Collections Created by Powers.[3]

Family life

Powers met and married Betty Wahl after reviewing a sample of Wahl's fiction. Sister Mariella Gable, OSB, a member of the College of Saint Benedict English faculty, sent him the sample and Powers asked to meet the writer. Powers and Wahl were married in 1946 after Wahl's graduation. They had five children.[6]

Published works

  • 1947 — Prince of Darkness and Other Stories
  • 1949 — Cross Country. St. Paul, Home of the Saints.
  • 1956 — The Presence of Grace
  • 1962 — Morte d'Urban — novel
  • 1963 — Lions, Harts, Leaping Does, and Other Stories
  • 1975 — Look How the Fish Live
  • 1988 — Wheat that Springeth Green — novel
  • 1991 — The Old Bird, A Love Story
  • 1999 — The Stories of J. F. Powers
  • 2013 — Suitable Accommodations: An Autobiographical Story of Family Life: The Letters of J. F. Powers, 1942-1963 (edited by Katherine A. Powers)


  1. ^ Jackson, Kenneth T. (ed.) (2004). The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives (Vol. 5, 1997-1999), p. 456. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-684-80663-0.
  2. ^ Mel Gussow (June 17, 1999). "J. F. Powers, 81, Dies; Wrote About Priests". The New York Times
  3. ^ a b "Powers, J. F. (James Farl), (1917-)". Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center. Retrieved October 14, 2012.
  4. ^ "National Book Awards – 1963". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-02-26. (With acceptance speech by Powers and essay by Joshua Ferris and Fiona Maazel from the Awards 60-year anniversary blog.)
  5. ^ "J. F. Powers, 81, Dies; Wrote About Priests". The New York Times
  6. ^ "The Gospel according to J. F. Powers". Portland magazin. Retrieved October 14, 2012.

External links

1917 in literature

This article presents lists of literary events and publications in 1917.

1999 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1999.

A Family Affair (novel)

A Family Affair is the last Nero Wolfe detective novel by Rex Stout, published by the Viking Press in 1975. The prolific author, who had penned more than 70 stories in the internationally successful Nero Wolfe series since 1934, died at the age of 88, less than six months after publication of this last book.

American Review (literary journal)

American Review was a literary journal published from 1967 to 1977 under editor Ted Solotaroff. It was initially called New American Review, published and distributed as a paperback book by the New American Library, but shortened its name to American Review its name when it moved to a different publisher in 1973.American Review printed traditional and experimental fiction, poetry, and nonfiction essays and journalism. It was unusual for the number of well-known and later-known writers it attracted from its very first issue. Its list of contributors includes Anna Akhmatova, Woody Allen, A. Alvarez, A. R. Ammons, Max Apple, John Ashbery, Russell Banks, Donald Barthelme, Marshall Berman, John Berryman, Jorge Luis Borges, Harold Brodkey, Robert Coover, George Dennison, E. L. Doctorow, Richard Eberhart, Stanley Elkin, Ralph Ellison, Leslie Epstein, William Gass, Richard Gilman, Allen Ginsberg, Albert Goldman, Günter Grass, Robert Graves, Peter Handke, Michael Herr, Richard Hugo, Stanley Kauffmann, Norman Mailer, Ian McEwan, James Merrill, W. S. Merwin, Leonard Michaels, Kate Millett, Conor Cruise O'Brien, Cynthia Ozick, Grace Paley, Sylvia Plath, J. F. Powers, V. S. Pritchett, Mordecai Richler, Theodore Roszak, Philip Roth, Lore Segal, Anne Sexton, Wilfrid Sheed, Susan Sontag, Gilbert Sorrentino, Robert Stone, James Welch, and Ellen Willis.Looking back on American Review, Vanity Fair's James Wolcott said the publication "started off stellar and never lost altitude, never peaked out, continuing to make literary news back when literary news didn't seem like an oxymoron, each issue bearing something eventful..." Slate's Gerald Goward called it "the greatest American literary magazine ever."

Catholic literary revival

The Catholic literary revival is a term that has been applied to a movement towards explicitly Catholic allegiance and themes among leading literary figures in France and England, roughly in the century from 1860 to 1960. This often involved conversion to Catholicism or a conversion-like return to the Catholic Church. Due to the influence of Catholic literature from England in the United States, the concept of "Catholic revival" is sometimes extended to include American authors such as Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Walker Percy, J. F. Powers and Flannery O'Connor.

Collegeville Township, Stearns County, Minnesota

Collegeville Township is a township in Stearns County, Minnesota, United States. The population was 3,343 at the 2010 census.

Commonweal (magazine)

Commonweal is a liberal American Catholic journal of opinion, edited and managed by lay Catholics, headquartered in The Interchurch Center in New York City. It is the oldest independent Roman Catholic journal of opinion in the United States.

James Powers

James Powers may refer to:

J. F. Powers (James Farl Powers, 1917–1999), American novelist and short-story writer

James L. Powers, founder of Powers Accounting Machine Company

James Powers (New York) (1785–1868), New York politician

James E. Powers (born 1931), New York politician

James F. Powers (1938–2012), New Hampshire politician

James T. Powers (actor) (1862–1943), American stage actor, vocalist, and lyricist

James Patrick Powers (born 1953), an American Roman Catholic bishop

Jimmy Powers, see Boxing on NBC and Gillette Cavalcade of Sports

July 8

July 8 is the 189th day of the year (190th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 176 days remaining until the end of the year.

List of people from Jacksonville, Illinois

The following list includes notable people who were born or have lived in Jacksonville, Illinois. For a similar list organized alphabetically by last name, see the category page People from Jacksonville, Illinois.

Mariella Gable

Mariella Gable OSB (1898–1985) was an American academic, writer, and literary critic.

Gable was born Mary Margaret Gable in Wisconsin, and received the name "Mariella" when she entered the Order of Saint Benedict at Saint Benedict's Monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota, in 1916. In 1934 she received her PhD from Cornell University, and took a position as chair of the Department of English at the College of Saint Benedict, where she remained until 1958. She was the editor of several anthologies of short stories, including Great Modern Catholic Short Stories (1942), Our Father's House (1945), and Many-Colored Fleece (1950), and wrote numerous essays as well; as a result she played a large role in shaping mid-century opinions of Catholic fiction in the United States and in Europe. She felt that fiction about religious and moral subjects should possess literary value, not merely serve as sentiment. Among authors whose work she respected were J. F. Powers and Flannery O'Connor; she also introduced such writers as Frank O'Connor, Sean O'Faolain, Mary Lavin, and Bryan MacMahon to American audiences. Gable remained on the faculty of the College of Saint Benedict until 1973. She is honored on campus with a residence hall and a literary prize, both named in her honor.

Morte d'Urban

Morte d'Urban is the debut novel of J. F. Powers. It was published by Doubleday in 1962. It won the 1963 National Book Award. It is still in print, having been reissued by The New York Review of Books in 2000.The novel tells the story of Father Urban Roche, a member of a fictitious religious order named the Clementines. Fr. Urban has developed a reputation as a gifted public speaker, but is sent by the superior to a remote retreat house in rural Minnesota. There he puts his skills to work improving the facilities and the local church.

The book has been widely praised. Thomas Merton called it “a valid and penetrating study of the psychology of a priest in what is essentially a spiritual conflict.” Jonathan Yardley, in a consideration of the book in the Washington Post four decades later, praised it as “our great workplace saga,” comparing it favorably to Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt, calling it “subtler, wittier and much more elegantly written.”

National Book Award for Fiction

The National Book Award for Fiction is one of four annual National Book Awards, which recognize outstanding literary work by United States citizens. Since 1987 the awards have been administered and presented by the National Book Foundation, but they are awards "by writers to writers". The panelists are five "writers who are known to be doing great work in their genre or field".General fiction was one of four categories when the awards were re-established in 1950. For several years beginning 1980, prior to the Foundation, there were multiple fiction categories: hardcover, paperback, first novel or first work of fiction; from 1981 to 1983 hardcover and paperback children's fiction; and only in 1980 five awards to mystery fiction, science fiction, and western fiction. When the Foundation celebrated the 60th postwar awards in 2009, all but three of the 77 previous winners in fiction categories were in print. The 77 included all eight 1980 winners but excluded the 1981 to 1983 children's fiction winners.The award recognizes one book written by a U.S. citizen and published in the U.S. from December 1 to November 30. The National Book Foundation accepts nominations from publishers until June 15, requires mailing nominated books to the panelists by August 1, and announces five finalists in October. The winner is announced on the day of the final ceremony in November. The award is $10,000 and a bronze sculpture; other finalists get $1000, a medal, and a citation written by the panel.Authors who have won the award more than once include such noted figures as William Faulkner, John Updike, William Gaddis, and Philip Roth, each having won the award on two occasions along with numerous other nominations.

The Book of Bebb

The Book of Bebb is a novel tetralogy by Frederick Buechner. The series consists of Lion Country (1971), Open Heart (1972), Love Feast (1974) and Treasure Hunt (1977). The tetralogy was then edited and published in one volume as The Book of Bebb (1979).

The Bebb novels revolve around the figure of Leo Bebb, a clergyman with a shady past, and are narrated by his son-in-law, Antonio Parr. Timothy K. Jones notes that Buechner "did not flinch at depicting Bebb's shady finances and sexual exhibitionism."W. Dale Brown argues that The Book of Bebb "continues with the questions dominating all of Buechner's work: belief versus unbelief, the ambiguities of life, the nature of sin, human lostness, spiritual homesickness, the quest for self-identity, the need for self-revelation, the search for meaning, and the possibility of joy." Brown goes on to suggest that "Buechner's repeated use of ambiguous protagonists as channels of grace suggests Graham Greene, J. F. Powers and Robertson Davies."

The Centaur

The Centaur is a novel by John Updike, published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1963. It won the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction. Portions of the novel first appeared in Esquire and The New Yorker.

The French translation of the novel won the Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger (Best Foreign Book Prize).

The Kenyon Review

The Kenyon Review is a literary magazine based in Gambier, Ohio, US, home of Kenyon College. The Review was founded in 1939 by John Crowe Ransom, critic and professor of English at Kenyon College, who served as its editor until 1959. The Review has published early works by generations of important writers, including Robert Penn Warren, Ford Madox Ford, Robert Lowell, Delmore Schwartz, Flannery O'Connor, Boris Pasternak, Bertolt Brecht, Peter Taylor, Dylan Thomas, Anthony Hecht, Maya Angelou, Rita Dove, Derek Walcott, Thomas Pynchon, Don Delillo, Woody Allen, Louise Erdrich, William Empson, Linda Gregg, Mark Van Doren, Kenneth Burke, and Ha Jin.The magazine's short stories have won more O. Henry Awards than any other nonprofit journal—most recently, two in 2004. Many poems that first appeared in the quarterly have been reprinted in The Best American Poetry series, and the magazine is one of the most frequent sources for the series, where poems originally in The Kenyon Review have appeared in the editions for 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2006.

The Moviegoer

The Moviegoer is the debut novel by Walker Percy, first published in the United States by Vintage in 1961. It won the U.S. National Book Award. Time magazine included the novel in its "Time 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005". In 1998, the Modern Library ranked The Moviegoer sixtieth on its list of the hundred best English-language novels of the twentieth century. It is published in the UK by Methuen.The novel is heavily influenced by the existentialist themes of authors like Søren Kierkegaard, whom Percy read extensively. Unlike many dark didactic existentialist novels (including Percy's later work), The Moviegoer has a light poetic tone. It was Percy's first, most famous, and most widely praised novel, and established him as one of the major voices in Southern literature. The novel also draws on elements of Dante by paralleling the themes of Binx Bolling's life to that of the narrator of the Divine Comedy.

Wilbur Wright College

Wilbur Wright College, formerly known as Wright Junior College, is a public community college in Chicago. Part of the City Colleges of Chicago system, it offers 2-year associate's degrees, as well as occupational training in IT, manufacturing, medical, and business fields. Its main campus is located on Chicago's Northwest Side in the Dunning neighborhood.

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