A look at books: Irish weather history, Elvis as God and letters of J.F. Powers

The letters contained in this collection provide vivid snapshots of Powers’ often chaotic life, lived often on the edge of near destitution. They also show how engaged he was at all times with his own creativity, although the tension between that and his modest life is definitional.

These letters paint a portrait of a life (and a love affair) begun in earnest but unraveled by an enraged sense of the gulf between how things were and how things should be. They are also undone by Powers shocking lack of practicality.

But behind all that, they are marvelously written, and so we -- like the editor herself -- are left to parcel out the man from his achievements. This is a poignant but strangely salutary collection.

FSG, $35.