Jonah, Joseph and Ruth are the children of mixed-race parents determined to protect them from the grinding effects of race. Hothouse children, they are all musically talented, but they cannot be protected from the world for long. Jonah becomes a successful young tenor, but the world of opera can only accept him as a 'brilliant Negro singer'; Joseph, our narrator, becomes a pianist and devotes his talents to the service of his brother's; Ruth turns her back on classical music ('white music') and disappears, on the run with her black husband under suspicion of being a Black Panther. Powers brilliantly and devastatingly delineates the tragedy of race in America, as it unfolds from the Civil Rights movement to Rodney King and Louis Farrakhan, through the lives and choices of one family, caught on the cusp of identities.
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(198mm x 129mm x 34mm)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Country of Publication:
UK Kirkus Review »
This is a book to take your breath away, so powerful that its ideas and imagination fire the reader's mind. Powers has taken a mixed-race couple, a black woman and a German Jewish immigrant, to tell the story of race in America. The man is a physicist obsessed with the definition of time and the woman is a singer. Music and time, the twin themes of the novel, allow him to return again and again to a subject or a scene, to take a jump into the past or the future. The end meets the beginning with a small black boy lost in the crowd near the statue of Abraham Lincoln during Marian Anderson's concert in 1939 and, in the closing pages, the same small boy disappears into the millions attending a meeting led by Farrakhan. In between there is the obscene illegality of mixed marriages, the savage cruelty and inequality leading to the civil rights movement, the rise of black power and the subsequent imprisonment of the Panthers and, described with shattering immediacy, there are the bloody race riots. David and Delia believe that 'the bird and the fish can marry' but this act of faith leaves their children labelled 'mulatto' or 'mule', the butt of discrimination and gibes from black and white. One son embraces classical music and defends his right to plunder what is beautiful in the European heritage while another tries to understand each and every kind of music so that all people might sing. 'Time', argues Powers, 'doesn't flow but is. In such a world, all the things that we ever will be or were, we are. In such a world who we are must be all things.' No concessions are made to the reader who must wrestle with long explanations of quantum physics and subtle descriptions of harmony and dissonance. The triumph of this writing is that the novel's traditional form is woven so tightly with the philosophical ideas that every page is a welcome discovery and a joy. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Richard Powers
Richard Powers is a recipient of a MacArthur award (commonly referred to as 'genius grants'). Galatea 2.2 was nominated for the US National Book Critics' Circle Award. His novels include Plowing the Dark, Time of Our Singing and Gain.