Monday, May 10, 2010

Deaf Sentence by David Lodge

Desmond Bates is a retired linguistics professor who is going deaf. His octogenarian former-musician dad is too. We meet Desmond at a gallery party performing the 'Lorenzo Reflex', not the latest dance craze but the way a person who is hard of hearing bends into a speaker to hear them better. The speaker in question is an attractive blond PhD candidate named Alex (short for Alexandra) Loom who is writing a dissertation on the linguistic/ syntactical peculiarities of suicide notes. Desmond doesn't hear a thing she's saying but nods his agreement anyway. You don't have to be Carnak The Great to predict that trouble is on the way. Desmond narrowly avoids getting lured into the unstable and sexy machinations of his needy protege and Lodge masterfully takes him (and his reader) to the edge of the professor's better judgment. Lodge captures with wit, sincerity and wisdom Desmond's relationships with his second wife Fred (short for Winifred), children, colleagues, and most importantly his crotchety dad who refuses to be put into a 'home'. A touching, funny, bittersweet, multi-layered story about love, family, (mis)communication, human frailty and death - or was that deaf - every sentence crafted with effortless grace. No literary pyrotechnics or violence, just everyday fine, deeply satisfying storytelling. A rare (these days) pleasure.

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