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Le temps où nous chantions I feel a bit guilty giving this book only three stars Yes, it s a highly acclaimed novel, it s relevant and praiseworthy and it tackles huge universal and specifically American themes through the individual stories of the Strom family members, music lovers all It s almost perfectly constructed, the main narrator Joseph is full of solemn sensitivity and insight, and the author s reflection on and use of time and space is mind grabbing.The problem is the novel s relentlessnes not just the ove I feel a bit guilty giving this book only three stars Yes, it s a highly acclaimed novel, it s relevant and praiseworthy and it tackles huge universal and specifically American themes through the individual stories of the Strom family members, music lovers all It s almost perfectly constructed, the main narrator Joseph is full of solemn sensitivity and insight, and the author s reflection on and use of time and space is mind grabbing.The problem is the novel s relentlessnes not just the overbearing musical metaphors and references, dosed to the saturation point, that I can deal with or skim over, sure No, there s a relentless, overwritten aspect that permeates the whole novel the points are driven in with hammers, passages repeated and pounded out mercilessly Aside from little bro narrator Joey, many of the other characters are also relentlessy single minded in their brooding obstination, which might just have been the author s point, but please, pity on the reader, who has to deal with them for 600 pages But for me, the real pity is that the most intriguing and provocative time loop elements are used so lightly and sparingly, while other, less interesting aspects are poured out like lead Subtract about 200 pages for a great novel Every once in a while you ll get into one of those conversations with an acquaintance who thinks he or she is smarter than you in which you list a string of books you ve read recently and authors you particularly enjoy Invariably Michael Chabon s last name shay bawn is mispronounced in these conversations.If you want to win the next conversation like this you have, I highly recommend delving quickly and deeply into the urvruh of Richard Powers, who, despite never fully penetrating the upper e Every once in a while you ll get into one of those conversations with an acquaintance who thinks he or she is smarter than you in which you list a string of books you ve read recently and authors you particularly enjoy Invariably Michael Chabon s last name shay bawn is mispronounced in these conversations.If you want to win the next conversation like this you have, I highly recommend delving quickly and deeply into the urvruh of Richard Powers, who, despite never fully penetrating the upper echelon of modern novelists, has been a finalist for the National Book Awardoften than Jane Smiley has ovulated, which is impressive because Jane Smiley ovulates at a rate three times the national average You should read In The Time of Our Singing, and other Powers books, because they are excellent You should also read them because when Paul Besterhooz, Sarah s ex boyfriend and grade A thunderdouche busts out Ian McEwan as one of his favorite writers, you can fire back with Richard Powersnuanced and, let s face it, the only way Atonement could beoverrated is if it was written by a recently liberated Afghani woman take on guilt and consciousness in literally all of his books.In The Time of Our Singing is about race in America and opera singing and also math Tout commence en , lorsque Delia Daley et David Strom se rencontrent un concert de Marian Anderson Peut on alors imaginer qu une jeune femme noire pouse un juif allemand fuyant le nazisme Et pourtant Leur passion pour la musique l emporte sur les conventions et offre leur amour un sanctuaire de paix ou, loin des hurlements du monde et de ses vicissitudes, ils l vent leurs trois enfants Chacun d eux cherche sa voix dans la grande cacophonie am ricaine, inventant son destin en marge des lieux communs Peupl de personnages d une humanit rare, Le temps ou nous chantions couvre un demi si cle d histoire am ricaine, nous offrant, au passage, des pages inoubliables sur la musique On sort de ce fleuve mu, boulevers et admiratif sans jamais crire un roman politique, ni pol mique, Richard Powers a d crit, voix feutr e, l chec d finitif d un id al Christophe Mercier, Le Figaro litt raireTraduit de l anglais tats Unis par Nicolas Richard I had a hard time finishing this book, because the ending was so good that I couldn t stop crying Not because it was sad, but because it was so unbelievably good, and because I d never before read a long book with an ending that lived up to its heft.Seriously, it took me like half an hour to read the last few pages, because I kept flinging down the book and pacing around my apartment, sobbing hysterically.Don t get me wrong, this book is not perfect, and it definitely falters in places However I had a hard time finishing this book, because the ending was so good that I couldn t stop crying Not because it was sad, but because it was so unbelievably good, and because I d never before read a long book with an ending that lived up to its heft.Seriously, it took me like half an hour to read the last few pages, because I kept flinging down the book and pacing around my apartment, sobbing hysterically.Don t get me wrong, this book is not perfect, and it definitely falters in places However, the ending is Perfect, I mean The best contemporary fiction that I ve read this year. Musical ImmersionI have participated in classical music as an amateur my entire life, and worked professionally in the field for four decades they are different experiences Up to now, the novel that most completely captured both the love affair of the amateur and the exacting discipline of the performer has beenAn Equal Musicby Vikram Seth, set in the world of chamber music But this 2003 novel by Richard Powers eclipses even that beacon Beginning with the astounding competition win by Musical ImmersionI have participated in classical music as an amateur my entire life, and worked professionally in the field for four decades they are different experiences Up to now, the novel that most completely captured both the love affair of the amateur and the exacting discipline of the performer has beenAn Equal Musicby Vikram Seth, set in the world of chamber music But this 2003 novel by Richard Powers eclipses even that beacon Beginning with the astounding competition win by a young American singer, Jonah Strom, in 1961, and then using the next 200 pages to trace the path that led him there, this is a book so totally immersed in music that the words themselves become a musical instrument, and the descriptions of formal concerts or jamming around the piano at homeexciting than the sex or action scenes of most other writers So totally does Powers understand the life of an aspiring vocalist and the special world of a music conservatory my own habitat for forty years , that it comes as a shock when he finally makes an error almost 400 pages in having his hero, a tenor, come under consideration for a role in a real production that was eventually taken by Simon Estes, a bass baritone But any flaws are tiny this is a masterpiece.Jonah is accompanied in his recitals by his brother Joey, who narrates the book The strength of this is that Jonah s talent is described, not from the point of view of his audience or fans, but through the fear and excitement of somebody trying to ski down the musical mountain beside him, responding to his impulsive turns, sharing the adrenaline of his impossible descent The downside, though not apparent until much later, is that when Jonah no longer has the spotlight and Joey emerges as the protagonist of his own book, some of the light is lost but we have seen this often enough before think The Great Gatsby or All the King s Men Though only Jonah has the star temperament, he and Joey are both musical prodigies, formed from parlor games in which parents and children alike would combine tunes from Lassus to Loesser in a quodlibet of improvised counterpoint When the book ends with similar jam session on a much larger scale in an inner city school in Oakland, California another magnificent set piece the musical homecoming is poignant.For this is also a book about race Jonah and Joey s parents met through one of those iconic moments where music and race intersect, at the celebrated concert by black mezzo soprano Marian Anderson on the Mall in Washington in 1939 David is a recent Jewish refugee, a theoretical physicist taken onto the faculty at Columbia, where he would become peripherally involved in the Manhattan Project Delia is the daughter of a black Philadelphia physician, a graduate of Howard University, and an aspiring singer in her own right I thought I knew about the sorry racial history of this country, but Powers brings it home with the force of revelation how intense the bigotry was in the middle decades of the century, and how foolhardy such a marriage would have been The Stroms idealized wish to raise their children beyond color only presented each of them with an ambiguity that they would take the rest of their lives to work out Jonah, who could almost pass for white Joey, who struggles to pass for black and their younger sister Ruth, who takes the most radical steps of all One of the things I most admire about Powers is his ability to bring major events close into the wings without them ever taking over the stage, and to forge a chain of events that serve as defining moments for the other America the Anderson concert, Hiroshima, Watts, and the two great marches on Washington It is an astounding book for a white writer even to attempt, let alone bring off with such authenticity.Perhaps Powers is over ambitious and tries to include too much His writing, though brilliant throughout, is often too dense for easy reading, too dependent on the special jargon of music or mathematics Not all his attempts to work through his racial theme in musical terms pay off But when he manages to pull it all together, as he does remarkably often, he is simply superb So let me end with his description of the congregation at the funeral of the boys mother How many gradations did anyone see This polytonal, polychordal piece played for a stone deaf audience who heard not tonic and dominant, and were pretty shaky even picking out those two But all the pitches in the chromatic scale had turned out for my mother, and many of the microtones between. This is undoubtedly a great work of art, a book that deserves all the superlatives that have been scattered here abundantly on this site, because this is a novel with a lot of meat on the bone First of all it is a beautiful, at times even quite touching family saga after 600 pages the Strom family members have become rather good acquaintances This saga is handsomely fit into a specific time frame the US between 1939 and 1993 and so it is also a Great American Novel a little reminiscent of This is undoubtedly a great work of art, a book that deserves all the superlatives that have been scattered here abundantly on this site, because this is a novel with a lot of meat on the bone First of all it is a beautiful, at times even quite touching family saga after 600 pages the Strom family members have become rather good acquaintances This saga is handsomely fit into a specific time frame the US between 1939 and 1993 and so it is also a Great American Novel a little reminiscent of American Pastoral by Philip Roth, also with a girl that goes radical It deals particularly with racial issues, from an African American and mixt colored position it even seems to be the best African American novel since Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and written by a white man And there even is a scientific philosophical line in the story, with the theme of the relativity of time yesterday is today, but also tomorrow, and tomorrow was allready there yesterday which is also reflected in the constant back and forth jumping of the story And then there s the music music is omnipresent, even in the least insignificant characters in this story, because music seems to be the very instrument to go beyond time, beyond race or any other dividing line, offering the ultimate freedom for the laymen among us such as I Power is rather demanding because he goes very far into the technicality of the singing and the music and you also need to have some notion of musical history to appreciate every detail but as a connecting element, it works and for true music lovers this book is an extravagant long and intense enjoyment.Powers weaves all these elements into a fascinating and ingenious composed story, that keeps the attention going almost until the end despite the sometimes very condensed writing style , with regular surprising turns and without being pedantic I really liked his approach to this story it is not an indictment for or against people with a particular color, or for or against the radical choices people sometimes make on the contrary, almost all the characters are drawn so subtly that you can not help but sympathize with their actions and opinions Even the egocentric Jonah who draws so much attention to himself and apparently seems the most successful of the Strom family, you can not but feel sympathy with him, because in the end he turns out to be the most tragic figure of this novel.There s so muchto praise, yet I can not quite go for the full five stars Especially towards the end of the novel, the story lines are becoming a bit artificial, some new characters eg, cousin Delia don t sound quite credible, and the wordy level gets slightly too high It seems like it took Powers some effort to lay down his story Also, the constant reference to the relativity of time occasionally got on my nerves For most of the novel this time game gives a rich and nice flavor to the storyline, but the magic realistic level of the pseudo philosophizing got a bit too high in the end.But no worries this really is a great novel and I recommend it enthousiastically I m placing the next novels of Powers on my to read list This is a marvelous novel It is a family saga that blends history, identity issues, music, and physics specifically the physics of time It is a novel for the ages Written in 2003, it remains timely and relevant, incredibly relevant.The story is mostly told by Joseph Strom, second son of David Strom, a Jewish German migr who teaches physics at Columbia, and Delia Daily, a classically trained, black singer, who met at the Marian Anderson concert on the Mall in Washington, D.C in 1939 Davi This is a marvelous novel It is a family saga that blends history, identity issues, music, and physics specifically the physics of time It is a novel for the ages Written in 2003, it remains timely and relevant, incredibly relevant.The story is mostly told by Joseph Strom, second son of David Strom, a Jewish German migr who teaches physics at Columbia, and Delia Daily, a classically trained, black singer, who met at the Marian Anderson concert on the Mall in Washington, D.C in 1939 David would never know if any of his family survived the holocaust Delia s parents could not believe that their daughter was marrying a white man, a marriage that was illegal in so many states But marry they did and had three children Jonah, Joseph, and Ruth The book moves back and forth through time We learn the back stories of David, Delia, and Delia s parents We grow up with Jonah, Joseph, and Ruth and watch as they become aware of their difference Jonah and Joseph are homeschooled until they are sent to a music school in Boston after Einstein tells their parents that they must get vocal training for Jonah Ruth attends public school Jonah and Joseph struggle to figure out who they are black or white Their parents tell them they can be whomever they want to be, although Delia is never comfortable with that answer Ruth just doesn t believe her parents She knows who she is She is black While Jonah and Joseph pursue music, Ruth becomes a community activist and breaks completely with her family for many years.Then there are Ruth s children Kwame and Robert Ruth s husband suffers the fate of many black men shot by the cops during a traffic stop because his license plate was unhinged on one side Kwame is a young boy and Robert is a baby when Joseph first meets them.This book is full of music, all kinds of music This book is full of individuals searching for their identity This book tells the story of America s continuing struggle with race This book ventures into time travel This book is marvelous This is the second Powers book I have read, and it left me wanting to readLike Orfeo, this is a book which shines with a deep love and knowledge of music of all kinds This one centres on a mixed race American family of musical geniuses The central figures are Delia Daley, a singer from an upwardly mobile black family, her husband, the Jewish physicist David Strom who has fled Nazi Germany, and their children Jonah, a talented classical singer who struggles to avoid being typecast and This is the second Powers book I have read, and it left me wanting to readLike Orfeo, this is a book which shines with a deep love and knowledge of music of all kinds This one centres on a mixed race American family of musical geniuses The central figures are Delia Daley, a singer from an upwardly mobile black family, her husband, the Jewish physicist David Strom who has fled Nazi Germany, and their children Jonah, a talented classical singer who struggles to avoid being typecast and diminished as a black singer, Joseph, his accompanist and the narrator who sees himself as a lesser musician, and Ruth, a talented singer as a child who is darker than her brothers and abandons music for a life working to help black people with a husband tainted by his association with the Black Panthers The family story is complex and is interwoven with the tragic history of racial struggles and conflicts in America, spiced by a liberal sprinkling of scientific ideas Powers control of these many strands is masterly, and the whole is very satisfying and surprisingly readable given the complexity of some of the ideas I couldn t help thinking that the ending, for all its formal elegance, did not quite ring as true as much of what preceded it I can t sayabout that without spoiling Maybe not quite the best book I have read this year, but it did come very close The bird and the fish can fall in love But where they gonna build their nest The Time of Our Singing sings about the fortunes of a mixed American family from 1939 to the present day A German Jewish physicist marries a black singer and the uncommon couple gets three children By making music and singing together, the family creates a world of its own in which race is an insignificant factor Yet their family is inevitably marked by the prevailing racial inequality Powers lashes his novel wThe bird and the fish can fall in love But where they gonna build their nest The Time of Our Singing sings about the fortunes of a mixed American family from 1939 to the present day A German Jewish physicist marries a black singer and the uncommon couple gets three children By making music and singing together, the family creates a world of its own in which race is an insignificant factor Yet their family is inevitably marked by the prevailing racial inequality Powers lashes his novel with historical and political material from recent American history Martin Luther King, racial riots and plays all registers of white and black music, albeit in a not always so subtle way Via the reflections of the father on the concept of time, Powers gives time an sich an essential role in the storyDe vogel en de vis kunnen liefde voor elkaar opvatten Maar waar gaan ze hun nest bouwen Het zingen van de tijd bezingt de lotgevallen van een gemengd Amerikaans gezin van 1939 tot heden Een Duits Joodse fysicus huwt een zwarte zangeres, waarop het stel drie kinderen krijgt Door samen te musiceren en te zingen cre ert het gezin een eigen wereld waarin ras een onbeduidende factor is Toch wordt hun familie onvermijdelijk getekend door de heersende rassenongelijkheid Powers lardeert zijn roman met historisch en politiek feitenmateriaal uit de recente Amerikaanse geschiedenis Martin Luther King, rassenrellen en bespeelt alle registers van de witte en zwarte muziek, zij het soms op weinig subtiele wijze Aan de hand van de natuurkundige bespiegelingen van de vaderfiguur over het begrip tijd, geeft hij tijd an sich een essenti le rol in het verhaal


About the Author: Richard Powers

Richard Powers is the author of twelve novels, most recently The Overstory He is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and the National Book Award, and he has been a Pulitzer Prize and four time National Book Critics Circle Award finalist He lives in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains Librarian note There isthan one author with this name in the Goodreads database


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