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The Time of Our Singing by Richard Powers

The Time of Our Singing (2003)

by Richard Powers

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English (22)  Dutch (3)  French (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (28)
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Written music is like nothing in the world—an index of time. The idea is so bizarre, it’s almost miraculous: fixed instructions on how to recreate the simultaneous. How to be a flow, both motion and instant, both stream and cross section.

I find it interesting that this tome remains so topical but then I recognize my naivety ----race will always already be at hand. Sorry for the metaphysical sleight of hand, but I suppose it is the human lot to go tribal, biology is likely to blame or bemused deity which doubts not only its own existence but ANY possible benefit as our creation as an homage.

Each year around this time I begin to think of the novels I'd love to reread. I usually don't. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
It's been years since I read this amazing novel, but I remember it truly hitting me with its emotional power and great characterization. Can't wait to find some time to reread it! ( )
  booksandcats4ever | Jul 30, 2018 |
Classic Powers. This was the last of his I hadn't read, saw it on the shelf one night and decided it was time. The main mark against this novel is that it is just too long - there are almost no 700 page stories that wouldn't be stronger at 450. Much like the later Orfeo, the various technical musical interludes are completely lost on me and may as well be in Swedish. Unlike Orfeo, my musical ignorance didn't rise to the level of completely undermining the story. There is enough otherwise going on that I was enthralled.

Given the events of the past few months in this country, I ache at how relevant this novel remains. ( )
  kcshankd | Jun 19, 2017 |
Beautiful, devastating book about a mixed race family that disintegrates under the weight of the racial politics surrounding the civil rights movement. The three children are musical prodigies, and their parents attempt to raise them "beyond" race, but they find as they grow up that they can't shake how race constrains their material opportunities and sense of self. The story is narrated from the point of the view of the middle brother, Joseph, and he feels constantly torn between the color-blind ethos of his older brother Jonah, and the radical racial politics of his younger sister, Ruth. The descriptions of music are gorgeous; it's hard to believe that Powers is not a musician himself. And the ending, in which Joseph imagines his nephew and his parents meeting across time, is heartbreaking and beautiful. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
1/3 through. Gave up. Tedious. Uninteresting. ( )
  ibkennedy | Nov 28, 2016 |
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Irgendwo in einem leeren Saal singt mein Bruder noch immer.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312422180, Paperback)

In some respects, Richard Powers's The Time of Our Singing is just a big, absorbing drama about an American family, with the typical ingredients of an immigrant parent and some social obstacles--in this case, a biracial marriage in the Civil Rights era--to be overcome by the talented children. But Powers's lyrical gifts lift this material far above its familiar subject matter. His descriptions of music alone will transport the reader. The Strom family were raised with this common language: "Our parents' Crazed Quotations game played on the notion that every moment's tune had all history's music box for its counterpoint. On any evening in Hamilton Heights, we could jump from organum to atonality without any hint of all the centuries that had died fiery deaths between them." The central figure of this novel is the dazzling Jonah, who makes a life from singing, and who may be the only person around him who regards his racial heritage as irrelevant to his ambitions. Powers's is such a fertile writer, however, that he can't stay with any single story, but plunges into pages and pages of family and social histories. The result is a rambling, resonant, fearless novel that pulls the reader along in its wake. --Regina Marler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:21 -0400)

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The book follows the mixed-race Strom family through much of the 20th century, from 1939 when German-Jewish physicist David Strom meets Delia Daley, a black, classically trained singer from Philadelphia through the 1990s. The couple marries and has three children: eldest son Jonah, a charismatic, egotistical singing prodigy; Joseph, his self-sacrificing accompanist; and Ruth, the rebel of the family, who becomes a militant black activist. There are two separate strands to the story: one is a third-person chronicle of David and Delia's relationship through the 1940s; the other, narrated by Joseph, is about the brothers' education in the nearly all-white world of classical music and their experience of the civil rights movement as the rest of the country grudgingly catches up to the Stroms' radical experiment.… (more)

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