Deaf Sentence Paperback – Jul 28 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
In British writer Lodge's (Author, Author) modest 13th fictional effort, an elderly man's hearing loss embroils him in a sticky situation with a beautiful, manipulative young woman. Sexagenarian Desmond Bates wears a hearing aid after being diagnosed some 20 years earlier with acquired deafness and consistently misinterprets people's words (which Lodge milks to maximum comic effect). Bates longs for activities after his retirement from teaching applied linguistics, other than contemplating e-mail spam about erectile dysfunction and watching his wife, Winifred, enjoy her success as an interior designer. The novel takes the form of his newly begun daily diary. At a gallery event, Bates mistakenly agrees to help shapely, enigmatic American student Alex Loom with her Ph.D. thesis on suicide notes. It quickly becomes clear that Loom's intentions are anything but academic and her instability shakes not only the sound foundations of Bates's family life but his long-since-stagnant fantasy life as well. Lodge's amiable, deliberate narrative tickles like a feather, but his frequent pauses for lengthy, expository grace notes may not appeal to every reader. (Sept.)
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'Brilliantly entertaining. Makes us giggle, laugh and even roar' Daily Mail 'One of the most moving things I have read in a long while... extremely readable, pitch perfect writing' Spectator 'Very funny. Deaf Sentence supplies the unusual sight of a senior British novelist bringing off the very difficult trick of successfully extending his range' Guardian 'Expert and enjoyable... many laugh-out-loud moments... gloriously funny, moving' Literary Review 'Full to bursting with comic riffs, apercus and insights. Seriously funny' New Statesman 'Very good, deeply enjoyable... rich with satirical set-pieces' Observer 'Sophisticated, beautifully layered... speaks to the intellect as well as the senses. As moving as it is entertaining. Lodge is a consummate observer of modern life' Herald 'There is much that is wonderful' Scotland on Sunday 'A quietly brilliant study of deafness, death and linguistics' Prospect 'Defies categorization... celebrates the sheer preciousness of existence' Irish Independent 'Enjoyable, thought-provoking... Lodge at the top of his game' Irish Times 'One of Britain's best-loved comic writers' The Lady 'He renders the painful isolation of deafness comic. A deeply melancholic novel' Independent 'Extremely readable, generously studded throughout with amusing comic moments underpinned with passages of genuine compassion and insight' Big Issue 'Wise and witty' Tatler 'Witty, exhiliratingly sharp' Sunday Times 'Funny, humane' Financial Times 'Dark and revealing comedy... probably no other work of fiction has described so successfully the multiplicity of confusions, frustrations and social stratagems deriving from deafness' The Times Literary SupplementSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
It comes as no surprise then that Desmond, somewhat hampered by his hearing loss, falls into predictable daily routine, his communication with those around him becoming difficult at best as his family, friends and colleagues mostly stand by, confused and embarrassed most of the time and ultimately unable to relate to his misunderstandings in the conversation. With sex becoming an object of anxious rather than pleasurable anticipation, "although blindness is tragic, deafness may be comic, "Desmond receives a completely unexpected and completely disturbing call from a young and seductive student by the name of Alex Loom.
An intriguing person but a bit of an enigma.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Now in his sixties, Desmond's existence settles into a boring routine. His wife, Winifred (whom he calls Fred), on the other hand, is rejuvenated, partly as a result of the flourishing new interior design business that takes up most of her time. Adding to his gloomy disposition is Desmond's concern for his eighty-nine year old father, Harry, who lives alone in London. Not only is Desmond's father also going deaf, but there are alarming signs that he is no longer able to care for himself adequately. Unfortunately, Harry refuses when Desmond offers to hire someone to look in on him and lend a hand with household chores.
"Deaf Sentence" is a deeply affecting novel that springs from the author's personal experience with high-frequency deafness. The book succeeds on many levels and is enhanced by Lodge's clever use of language, entertaining literary and cultural references, and vivid descriptive passages. One day, when Desmond is strolling across the campus where he used to teach, he encounters a horde of students pouring out of their classes. "I floated on their tide like a piece of academic wreckage," he muses with a hint of self-mockery. The author elevates the mundane by poignantly exploring the ebb and flow of marital relationships, the physical and mental decline that accompanies aging, and the toll that illness and disability take on both the victim and his family. Lodge conveys his knowledge of all these themes subtly, sensitively, and with a healthy dose of bracing humor.
Desmond is an engaging first-person narrator, who sometimes lapses into the third person, presumably to give himself a breather. Fred is a devoted and sympathetic spouse, but as the years go by, she is becoming more and more exasperated by her husband's habits, especially his increasing reliance on alcohol as an anesthetic. Desmond is beginning to feel like "a redundant appendage to the family, an unfortunate liability" who no longer commands the respect that he once took for granted. To complicate matters further, an attractive but unstable young student named Alex Loom threatens to upend Desmond's already shaky existence when she asks him to supervise her dissertation on "the stylistic analysis of suicide notes." Should he risk getting involved with this possibly predatory female?
The novel draws us in more and more as the suspense builds. We wonder how Desmond and Fred will adjust to the shift in their respective roles; what Desmond will do when his father can no longer live alone; and whether or not Desmond will give in to the lovely Alex in order to salve his battered ego. Lodge's vivid characters soon become familiar acquaintances whom we get to know so well that it is difficult to part with them. In this touching, funny, and wise book, David Lodge deftly and unsentimentally illuminates the challenges and frustrations that, sooner or later, everyone must face.
"Deaf Sentence" is a work of fiction, but Lodge admits in a postscript that he drew on his own experience with hearing loss, as well as that of his father's, to tell the tale of Desmond Bates, a retired professor of linguistics attempting, with mitigated success, to navigate the world minus one reliable sense. The subject suits Lodge because "deafness is comic, as blindness is tragic," in the words of Bates (whose namesake is the hard-of-hearing Miss Bates from Jane Austen's "Emma"), and Lodge specializes in that particularly British brand of wry, dry humor, that is more appropriate to the mishaps of deaf-induced misunderstandings than the arguably bleaker fate of all-encompassing darkness.
"Deaf Sentence" touches on weighty topics like suicide, mortality, and bodily degeneration, but Lodge never lets the gloom overwhelm his highly cultivated taste for slapstick, wordplay, and the comic hijinks of a hapless hero. Lodge's Desmond is a humane, sympathetic portrait of a sixty-something man struggling to find meaning in his unstructured retirement, and human connection in spite of his isolating deafness. A visit to Auschwitz during a lecture tour reminds Desmond of the true nature of silence, that overpowering silence that is the silence of the tomb, or the silence of God. He writes, "Deafness is a kind of pre-death, a drawn-out introduction to the long silence into which we will all eventually lapse."