49 pages 1 hour read

Richard Powers

The Echo Maker

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2006

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Important Quotes

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“In this light, something saurian still clings to them: the oldest flying things on earth, one stutter-step away from pterodactyls. As darkness falls for real, it’s a beginner’s world again, the same evening as that day sixty million years ago when this migration began.”

(Part 1, Pages 3-4)

The narrator gives a prehistoric impression of the birds, conveying their ancient, primal nature. Metaphorically, the migration began 60 million years in the past with the first members of their species, linking the birds to the idea of memory as a constant, unbroken current.

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“A flock of birds, each one burning. Stars swoop down to bullets. Hot red specks take flesh, nest there, a body part, part body. Lasts forever: no change to measure. Flock of fiery cinders. When gray pain of them thins, then always water. Flattest width so slow it fails as liquid. Nothing in the end but flow. Nextless stream, lowest thing above knowing. A thing itself the cold and so can’t feel it.”

(Part 1, Page 10)

This passage is an example of stream-of-consciousness. It mimics Mark’s confusion and disorientation by running words and phrases together in Mark’s confused brain. Without access to conscious thought, Mark can’t fuse scattered sensory input into a coherent story.

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“Her mother used to call long-distance, just to listen to her phone-receptionist voice. ‘How’d you learn how to sound like that? That’s not right! That can’t be good for your vocal cords.’ From Chicago she went to Los Angeles, the greatest city on earth. She tried to tell Mark: […]Your parents aren’t your fault, […] You could come out here and nobody would ever have to know about them.”

(Part 1, Pages 25-26)

Karin has always tried to help Mark find an identity that fits him. Karin herself has fled Kearney and the shadow of their parents in search of an identity she could live with. She finds that the problem isn’t other people knowing about her parents but rather that she hasn’t formed a satisfactory identity for herself.