Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Deaf Writer and His Deaf Character: A Review of Deaf Sentence by David Lodge

Deaf Sentence by David Lodge isn't a new book. It was published in 2008. It was new to me, however, and I have reader Joe from Washington State to thank for bringing it to my attention. Joe wrote to tell me he enjoyed my blog and tell me about this book.

While I was reading the novel, I couldn't believe how similar the narrator's experiences with misunderstanding loved ones and coping with wearing hearing aids were to my own. I wondered how David Lodge got it so right. Well, the answer should have been obvious. David Lodge has a hearing loss himself. The British author discusses his hearing loss journey which began in his late forties and continues on into his seventies in this article from the Daily Mail.

When interviewed by The Book Depository, he was asked directly if Deaf Sentence was based on his own experiences. Here is his reply:
"The portrayal of the central character's deafness is closely based on my own experience, and it is exceedingly unlikely that I would have thought of writing a novel about this condition if I hadn't suffered from it myself. From my late forties I was afflicted with gradually worsening high-frequency deafness, the most common form of hearing impairment, which makes it difficult to distinguish consonants, especially when there is a lot of background noise. The character of Desmond's father is also closely based on my own father who died in 1999. He was also deaf, as a result of old age, but wouldn't wear a hearing aid, so communication between us was often difficult."

Deaf Sentence has lots of funny bits which will make you laugh, particularly if you or a loved one has a hearing loss. Some tender family moments are also included. To add some drama and suspense, there is a subplot about a young female graduate student who is writing a dissertation on suicide notes. For reasons of her own, she puts Desmond, the main character who is a retired linguistics professor, in compromising positions. For reasons of my own, I skipped over some of those parts to allow me to enjoy the book. Do you ever do that?

If you've read the book yourself, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. As always, keep those book recommendations coming.


Liz said...

I have not read this book, but its something I would read.

Richard has told me this is something I could do too, write based on my hearing loss, which me would be for children, if I did.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

What a great idea, Liz! I'm glad Richard suggested it.