Time of Our Singing

Powers, Richard. The Time of Our Singing. Picador, 2004.

Reason read: Richard Powers was born in the month of June. Read in his honor.

Writing a review for this book was difficult considering our current national climate. Is it fair to bring a child into this world, knowing full well his or her life will be an uphill, hurtful, and potentially lethal journey? With Roe V. Wade being overturned, this is a burning question for me. In The Time of Our Singing it is 1939 and David Strom, a German Jewish white man meets and falls in love with an African American young lady from Philadelphia. Should they have an interfaith relationship? Could they succeed in a biracial marriage? What hardships would their children have in a world consumed with the hate and segregation and World War II? Is it blind faith to assume their offspring will thrive beyond race with the help of music? So many questions that kept me reading all 600+ pages to the very end. Time of Our Singing also tells the story of David and Delia’s children. Jonah, Joseph, and Ruth come of age during the early Civil Rights movement and the turmoil of racial unrest follows them through adulthood. Jonah and Joseph go the route of music and fame, while Ruth veers violently in the opposite direction. Over time, they cannot ignore their color or where they came from. Through music comes recognition and redemption.
What I liked the most was the clever writing in that there are hints of a disaster: a photograph that has escaped being burned. What a black boy from Chicago doesn’t know about deep south segregation. How hatred can burn like an inferno until it explodes in disaster.

Lines I liked, “Music was there lease, their deed, their eminent domain” (p 9), “She beat at the recipe with a force her daughter couldn’t fail to read” (p 131), “Death mixes all races” (p 145), “The puppet refused to sit up and speak” (p 495), and “Race’s worst injuries are color-blind” (p 553).

Author fact: Pearl really likes Richard Powers. He has his own chapter in Book Lust. For the Challenge I am reading five more books by Powers and I have already read Gain and Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance. Due to their length, I don’t think I finished either one.

Book trivia: Time of Our Singing is a hefty 600+ pages.

Playlist: Musicians: Andre Watts, Bach, Brahms, Cole Porter, Cherubini, Charlie Parker, Camilla Williams, Duke Ellington, Dvorak, Dorothy Maynor, Dizzy Gillespie, Debussy, David Strom, Delia, Doors, Eartha Kitt, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Ginger Kiltie, Hayden, Holst, Ice Cube, Josquin Absalom, Jules Bledsoe, Jim Morrison, Leontyne Price, Marian Anderson, Mimi, Mendelsohn, Mozart, Miles Davis, Pucci, Paula Squires, Phillipa Duke Schuyler, Robert McFerrin, the Supremes, Schubert, Tallis, and Wreckin’ Cru
Songs: “Alto Rhapsody”, “America”, “Asleep in the Deep”, “Auf Ewigkeit”, “Ave Maria”, “Ave verum corpus”, “Balm in Gilead”, “The Boy’s Magic Horn”, “By the Waters of Babylon”, “Come Again, Sweet Love Doth Now Invite”, “California Girls”, “Deceit Holds the World in Its Domain”, “Dance of the Seven Veils”, “Down by the Salley Gardens”, “Elija”, “Fascinating Rhythm”, “Floral Bandit”, “From the New World”, “German Dance #1”, “Go Down Moses”, “Good Vibrations”, “Gospel Train”, “Honeysuckle Rose”, “I Hear a Symphony”, “I’m a Believer”, “Ladonna e mobile”, “Lord God of Abraham”, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, “Marching to Freedomland”, “Miller’s Beautiful Daughter”, “My Soul is Anchored to the Lord”, “Motherless Child”, “O Mio Fernando”, “On That Great Gettin’ Up Morning”, “Ol Man River”, “Prelude to a Kiss”, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”, “Se La Face Ay Pale”, “Satin Doll”, “Swanee River”, “Star Spangled Banner”, “Saint Matthew Passion”, “Sussestille”, “There’s a Rainbow Round My Shoulder”, “Time Stands Still”, “Trampin'”, “Trout”, “Turkey in the Straw”, “Werther”, “We Can Work It Out”, and “You Are My Sunshine”

Nancy said: Pearl dedicated a whole chapter to Powers so she had a lot to say about the author. Not so much about The Time of Our Singing.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Richard Powers: Too Good To Miss” (p 191).

Echo Maker

Powers, Richard. Echo Maker. London: Picador, 2007.

Reason read: November is National Writing Month. I chose Echo Maker for the category of National Book Award Winner.

What would you do if your only brother, the younger sibling you have protected since birth, has a terrible automobile accident that leaves him utterly convinced you are not kin; that you are an imposter? According to him you are a replica, a fake, a fraud, a well trained actor down to the very last identifying detail. Maybe even a highly technical robot with lifelike emotion and memory? Mark’s neurological condition is called Capgras and he swears Karen is a copy of his flesh and blood sibling. Despite facing haunting hometown memories and more than six months of Mark not recognizing her, Karen separates from her job and sells her home in order to become his legal guardian. Even world-famous neurologist and best selling author, Gerald Weber, is stumped by Mark’s condition. He comes to study Mark not only to answer Karen’s cry for help, but to stroke a faltering ego. The introduction of Dr. Weber allows author Powers to include such psychological disorders as Fregola Syndrome, Synesthesia, Pleiotropy, Agnosia, Dyscalculia, Tinnitus, Acrophobia, Sundowner Syndrome, Amnesia, Charles Bonnet Syndrome, Aphasia and Klurer-Bucy Syndrome. It gets a little heavy at times. Then there’s too-good-to-be-true Barbara. She arrives on the scene as an aide in the hospital but something seems off with her as well. People cannot help but fall in love with her without really understanding why. If Mark’s medical condition wasn’t enough of a plot, Powers has thrown in a political and ecological battle over a preserve with tourist-drawing cranes which migrate to the area every year. Are the cranes and Mark’s accident connected?

Confessional: I would have liked Dr. Weber’s story to start earlier in the book. He arrives on the Nebraskan scene after Karen invites him to study her brother’s case. From there, he is intertwined with the saga but it would have brought more context to his involvement if the reader had been able to follow his journey sooner than meeting Mark.

Lines to like, “Home was the place you never escaped even in nightmare” (p 8),”Disaster trumped the past and gave her temporary asylum” (p 46), and “She curled into the threat of doing this again” (p 58). I could go on and on and on. Echo Maker has dozens of great one-liners.

Playlist: Brahms, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Schubert…and I am sure there were more. For the first time in my life I lost a library book. I have no idea what happened and it confounds me.

Author fact: I have a total of nine works to read by Richard Powers. I have finished three with six to go.

Book trivia: This should have been a movie. It was almost a Pulitzer winning book.

Nancy said: Pearl called Echo Maker brilliant and thought provoking.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Nebraska: the Big Empty” (p 148).