In his novels, Richard Powers tends to write about very intelligent people who quietly go through tremendous life changes. When you see him in person, it’s easy to see where his inspiration comes from: Powers is a highly intelligent, mild-mannered speaker who casually drops sentences that change your understanding of topics like music and cognitive science. Powers’s newest novel, Orfeo, continues this trend; its main character is a genius composer named Peter Els whose hobby—he dabbles in microbiology in a home lab—gets the FBI’s attention, earning him the nickname the “Bioterrorist Bach.” (Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave,, 7:30 pm, $5)

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