I didn't see Richard Powers when he came to Wellington (since I wasn't there) but I just received this from the IIML newletter: "On Saturday Victoria’s MA students had a chance to get some one-on-one advice on their novels when he presented a masterclass on narrative perspective, beginning with the notion that ‘a description always describes the describer’. Among the variations Powers offered on this theme was a scene from Damien Wilkins’ novel The Miserables, in which the main character’s view of Wellington from the deck of the interisland ferry reveals much about his state of mind."
Sounds not a million miles from describing the coffin, not the grief. I like his way of putting it, too. I think it's a great writing tip to keep in mind.