What We Are Reading Today: The Music of Time by John Burnside

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Updated 21 January 2020

What We Are Reading Today: The Music of Time by John Burnside

Poetry helps us to make sense of our world, transforming what the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam called the “noise of time” into a kind of music. 

The Music of Time is a unique history of 20th-century poetry by one of today’s most acclaimed poets, blending incandescent personal meditations with rare insights about a broad range of poets who distilled the essence of the moment, gave voice to our griefs and joys, and shaped our collective memory.

Bringing together poets from times and places as diverse as Tsarist Russia, 1960s Harlem, and Ireland at the height of the Troubles, John Burnside reveals how poetry responded to the dramatic events of the century while shaping our impressions of them. 

He takes readers from the trenches of World War I to a prison cell in Nazi Germany, and from Rilke’s grave in the Swiss Alps to Dylan Thomas’s Welsh seaside. His luminous narrative is woven through with insights into the poet’s creative process as well as lyrical and thought-provoking digressions on topics ranging from marriage to the Kennedy assassination.

A spellbinding work of literary history, The Music of Time reveals how poets engaged with the most important issues and events of the 20th century, and bears personal witness to the beauty and power of an art form unlike any other.


What We Are Reading Today: Steadfast Democrats

Updated 27 February 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Steadfast Democrats

Authors: Ismail K. White and Chryl N. Laird 

Black Americans are by far the most unified racial group in American electoral politics, with 80 to 90 percent identifying as Democrats — a surprising figure given that nearly a third now also identify as ideologically conservative, up from less than 10 percent in the 1970s. Why has ideological change failed to push more black Americans into the Republican Party? Steadfast Democrats answers this question with a pathbreaking new theory that foregrounds the specificity of the black American experience and illuminates social pressure as the key element of black Americans’ unwavering support for the Democratic Party, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

Ismail White and Chryl Laird argue that the roots of black political unity were established through the adversities of slavery and segregation, when black Americans forged uniquely strong social bonds for survival and resistance. 

White and Laird explain how these tight communities have continued to produce and enforce political norms—including Democratic Party identification in the post–Civil Rights era. The social experience of race for black Americans is thus fundamental to their political choices.