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Deaf Sentence Paperback – Jul 28 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin UK (July 28 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141035706
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141035703
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 240 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #190,437 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'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 Supplement

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Top Customer Reviews

Although this novel ends with a birth and a death, for most of its pages, Deaf Sentence celebrates life, albeit one that is a little disadvantaged. Forced to retire because of his rapidly diminishing hearing, linguistics professor Desmond Bates is not exactly going through a mid-life crisis, but in the preceding months has reached a point in his life where he is subtly questioning everything. Desmond has had a fulfilling career teaching at a local northern University, and he's mostly happily married to his entrepreneurial wife Fred "Winifred" who runs a trendy design store called Décor. But even as Desmond settles into a middle-aged life, he worries about his increasingly spotty sexual performance. While Fred seems to be getting better with age, blooming into the flower of independence with a stunning new career and new look helped along by her best friend Jacci, Desmond has grown older and deafer, and subject to occasional erectile dysfunction that is exasperated by the advertisements for Viagra that daily always seem to appear in his email box.

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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Well worth reading, especially if you are, like me, coping with early deafness. This Lodge novel contains the usual group of entertaining characters, but unlike his early writings there is melancholy as well as much amusement. I note that he tells the reader that some of the story is autobiographical and I admire his frank writing about life's little and major tragedies. Perhaps his best fiction (so far!). I recommend it strongly.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
David Lodge's innate sense of humour balances the sense of loss that accompanies growing deafness. I am experiencing loss of hearing because of ageing, and Lodge absolutely captures the astonishing experiences due to incipient deafness. The captivating plot does not depend on the theme of deafness. However, for anyone experiencing hearing loss, it is obligatory reading.
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Format: Paperback
The novel takes the form of a diary and has many amusing characters which make it worthwhile to read. We have the lead character who Lodge constantly pokes fun at caught up in the tribulations of his father who needs to move out of his house but refuses and a wife who doesn't get along with the father and constantly barks at her husband and the problems his deafness has caused her social life. We also have an amusing interlude with a female named alex doing a ph. d. on suicide notes with a member of the lead character desmond's staff and it provides much humour to the novel as desmond tries to remove himself from her clutches but she seems irresistibly drawn to him. She is one of the strongest characters in the novel. The novel comes to life with all the minor characters and is a joy to read. There are many sad and depressing scenes as when he travels to Poland so be prepared for some sad reading among the humour. Not for all tastes but I enjoyed it...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9fd74dec) out of 5 stars 75 reviews
49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9e7a5060) out of 5 stars "What shall I do with myself today?" Oct. 5 2008
By E. Bukowsky - Published on
David Lodge's "Deaf Sentence" is a seriocomic novel about a man whose quality of life is steadily declining. Desmond Bates, a former professor of linguistics, takes early retirement, mostly because of a hearing loss that began twenty years earlier. He suffers from "high-frequency deafness...caused by accelerated loss of the hair cells in the inner ear...." Since there is no treatment for this condition, Desmond resorts to hearing aids, which prove to be inconvenient and, in some circumstances, useless. As he dourly observes, "deafness is a kind of pre-death, a drawn-out introduction to the long silence into which we will all eventually lapse."

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.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f728510) out of 5 stars Deaf Sentence by David Lodge is a sweet book May 14 2010
By Byerly Woodward - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I just read the sweetest book. David Lodge is a British novelist and academic. Some of his very funny novels deal with visiting professors who have affairs with other professors while visiting campuses across the Atlantic. But this book wasn't like that at all. Deaf Sentence is about a retired linguistics professor who is losing his hearing. He is happily married to his second wife and dealing with an aging working class father. The book is well written and lively and I'm not giving anything away here. Sweet is actually my best description for it. Lodge lets his protagonist get into realistic difficulty but he doesn't let bad things ruin him. I really liked that.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ee70c00) out of 5 stars "Deaf, Where Is Thy Sting?" Jan. 20 2009
By John Murphy - Published on
There is something appropriate about David Lodge writing on the ruefully comic trials and tribulations of deafness. He is a master chronicler of the seriocomic frustrations of daily life, whether it be the sexual frustrations of young Catholics post Vatican II in "How Far Can You Go," or the family frustrations of a beleagured grad student juggling the demands of home life and academia in "The British Museum is Falling Down."

"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."
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9ea687f8) out of 5 stars I kept waiting for the plot... Dec 30 2009
By D. Mercado - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This story never got off the ground for me. At page 100, I was still waiting for some recognizable plot. As a hard-of-hearing person, I didn't much get into the whining about losing his hearing, which is really what this novel is about...mostly. I am also a linguist, so I thought I would find more to relate to, but the writing is so utterly tedious and it just never kicks into gear. I was led to believe from reviews that this book is about his involvement with a mysterious doctoral student, but this is really more of a side story than the main plot...too bad, because that part was intriguing. In fairness, there are a few comical moments, and even more than a few observations I could relate to about being hard-of-hearing (how do those little battery doors wind up closed when I have so carefully opened them before placing them in the drawer?), but the stream-of-consciousness ruminating is just not very interesting. I'll keep trying to understand why this book made a list of the best books of 2009.....
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9e731f84) out of 5 stars Lodge keeps to his own high standards Jan. 11 2009
By Michael K. Smith - Published on
I've been a fan of Lodge's fiction ever since his second novel, _Ginger, You're Barmy,_ came out in 1962. His first few books were considered amusing but nothing special by the critics, but he hit his stride with _Changing Places_ in 1975. This latest work of fiction (because, as a professor of English, now retired, he has also written dense works on critical theory) is his fourteenth and it's an excellent example of how his early propensity for domestic comedy has evolved into commedia in almost the Dantean sense. Lodge is from southeast London but has spent all his adult academic life in Birmingham, and the present narrative, like several of his others, is set in both places. It's difficult to know how much of the detail of his books derives from his personal experiences but Desmond Bates, a retired professor of linguistics (not languages -- "it's a common mistake"), who is becoming more and more deaf, is certainly based on Lodge's own situation. In fact, the narrator's explicit puns on deafness (including the title) and the implicit frustration it causes him are very much the focus of the story. Though he's helped by high-tech hearing aids, and though more theaters are making wi-fi headphones available for deaf patrons, deafness makes social intercourse extremely difficult -- and yet it's not as dramatic and sympathy-drawing as blindness. It's hardly worth it to Desmond to try to teach, or to attend public functions or even dinner parties, since he misses so much now of what's going on. And since his somewhat younger second wife is becoming very successful with an upscale home decor business even as Desmond is entering the downside of his life, he feels even more isolated and frustrated. Then he's approached by a personable and blondely attractive American graduate student seeking advice (apparently) on her doctoral dissertation, the focus of which is a textual analysis of suicide notes. Desmond was a teacher for too long not to be aware of the pitfalls of becoming involved -- or even appearing to become involved -- with female students, and he doesn't even have official standing with the university any longer, but his loneliness seduces him into going beyond what his good sense warns him about. Still, he never does anything that quite stoops to B-movie farce, though he worries that he might have. Especially as he realizes that the girl is even weirder than he at first thought. Lodge is a master of the British art of drollery and wry self-observation and Desmond's interior monologues -- the only sort of conversation he's really comfortable with these days -- are smoothly developed in a complex way that seems effortless. That's the mark of a first-rate writer. Two of his novels have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize (Lodge himself chaired the committee one year), and I wouldn't be surprised if this one were as well.

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