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Deaf Sentence: A Novel by David Lodge

Deaf Sentence: A Novel (edition 2008)

by David Lodge

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7764611,891 (3.65)31
Title:Deaf Sentence: A Novel
Authors:David Lodge
Info:Viking Adult (2008), Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:@wishlist: to read -- 75, @bookmooch: wishlist

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Deaf Sentence by David Lodge

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    The Open Cage: An Autobiography by Phoebe Raddings (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Another account of living with deafness.

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English (38)  French (4)  German (1)  Hebrew (1)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (46)
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
Because I'm deaf myself, I wanted to really like "Deaf Sentence", but once the plot began to deeply involve a devious graduate student complicating the life of the late-deafened protagonist, it kind of went downhill for me.

Although the character Desmond is late-deafened (and British) and I've been deaf since birth (and American), I feel the descriptions of getting lost when trying to converse and other things that deaf people have to deal with was fairly accurate. This is the first work I've read by author David Lodge, and I couldn't find out whether he is experiencing deafness himself.

In spite of the fact that I didn't fall in love with this book, I'm keeping it on the bookshelf with my other deaf literature (i.e. "Talk Talk" by T.C. Boyle) and memoirs.

I may have been slow but I realized halfway through the novel that "Deaf Sentence" is a play on the term "Death Sentence" -- it's surprising how many of us deaf people have experienced being called "death", but also many people might consider a diagnosis of deafness in themselves or their children to be a death sentence (it isn't in spite of inconveniences and discrimination -- it's all about attitude). ( )
  ValerieAndBooks | Mar 19, 2014 |
Although there are aspects of the plot that I could have done without (is it just me or is there a surfeit of novels out there in which ruefully ageing men are pursued by obscurely vindictive, sexually aggressive young women?), I always enjoy Lodge's novels and this one displays not only his characteristic cleverness (the riffs on deaf/death, as in "o deaf, where is thy sting?" are beautifully Lodge-ian), but a poignance and tenderness well beyond what I'm used to in his work. ( )
  savoirfaire | Apr 6, 2013 |
Initially I felt a little unsettled as the novel read much more as an autobiography than a work of fiction having lots of seemingly inconsequential detail and many factual references to linguistics and deafness. Later, when sixty something Desmond becomes mildly embroiled with young Alex Loom it felt as if the fictitious part had begun more in earnest with the creation of this unlikely, nubile woman who stuffs her knickers into his pocket on his first visit to her flat to discuss her thesis and then emails him to say she needed to be punished for using a highlighter on a library book and making arrangements for him to smack her bare bottom. I found this a little sad coming from the pen of someone of Lodge’s age although I suppose this bit of plot and suspense are what gives an otherwise rather wandering piece of writing some direction for the reader – will Desmond succumb to her nefarious advances?

On the other hand I found myself in tune with much of what comes out of Desmond’s mind from the tiresomeness of Christmas to the awfulness of four wheel drives, especially those with ‘Baby on Board’. He put voice to many of my gripes about modern society which made me wonder if it’s generational but I think not. It’s more just the way an unsentimental approach to life tends to find the same things uplifting or depressing. The cover suggests it’s a ‘gloriously funny’ novel and from what I remember of other David Lodge novels that I’ve read, I was expecting to find this one amusing but I thought it more a lively response to being retired in a first world country at this time in history. And of course Desmond’s visit to Auschwitz is a particularly sombre part of the book, another part that seems more autobiographical than fictitious.

It’s a curious book, then, offering a cornucopia of interesting factual detail (like the origin of ‘scot’ in ‘scot-free’) dressed up in a work of fiction and combines this with fantasy alongside wry observations about modern society. ( )
  evening | Jan 30, 2013 |
Desmond, the protagonist, was a professor of linguistics before taking early retirement at a time of departmental reorganisation, partly because of increasing difficulties with his hearing. Hearing problems make his social interactions difficult, he has an elderly father to worry about, and his (younger) wife is busy with her successful business. It's his hearing problems that lead him to be courted as a potential dissertation supervisor by a young American PhD student, which gives the book some semi-dramatic turns.

David Lodge is supposed to be funny (or so I've heard—I don't think I've read anything of his except the non-fiction The Art of Fiction), but I didn't find this book particularly amusing. I found the character of Alex totally unconvincing and felt that the plot turns that she provided seemed to be belong to a different novel. I don't think there's anything fun in hearing loss (my mother started using a hearing aid in her 40s so I don't need fiction to describe to me what it's like), and Desmond's worries about his elderly and increasingly forgetful father were nothing but sad and depressing. ( )
  mari_reads | Nov 28, 2012 |
One of those books in which just about every phrase from the reviews quoted in the paperback copy rings true. 'Enjoyable, though-provoking' ... 'deeply melancholic' ... 'funny, humane' ... 'extremely readable.' All true, and much more besides.

'Deaf Sentence' is the story of Desmond Bates, a retired English academic who has been losing his hearing for some time and is still struggling with the consequences. Hearing aids that don't always function, conversations at social functions in echoing rooms where it is necessary to guess almost all of the other party's words and meaning. Desmond's (second) wife has become a successful businesswoman in later life; they each have one ageing parent left, though Desmond's is coping less well with his age and will come to play a more significant part in the plot. That plot also involves Desmond being drawn back into the fringes of academic life in his university and elsewhere.

Lodge is a master at combining humour and pathos effortlessly and you can feel for his characters whilst laughing with them and at them. He explores many themes, including favourites such as religion, death, sex and language and others including the Holocaust, step-families, suicide and inter-generational ties. As is often the case he also plays with the form, in this case by switching the narrative regularly from the third person to the first person. This is done by a natural device; it is sometimes signalled explicitly and sometimes noted after the change, but never intrudes on what is an effortless read.

Lodge has previously referred to the difficulties faced by translators of fiction within his novels; in this one, he notes in the dedication that this book will present them with particular difficulties from the title onwards. This is in part because the narrator is frequently trying to translate poorly-heard spoken English into something meaningful. Much of the humour, and some of the plot, is contingent on these mishearings and partial hearings.

A perfect novel in every way, and one that's as good an introduction to his work as any other. ( )
  kevinashley | Nov 25, 2012 |
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Sentence noun. Middle English [Old French from Latin sententia mental feeling, opinion, philosophical judgement, from sentire feel] 1. Way of thinking, opinion, mind... 2b. The declaration in a criminal court of the punishment imposed on a person pleading guilty or found guilty... 5. A pithy or memorable saying, a maxim, an aphorism... 7... A piece of writing or speech between two full stops or equivalent pauses.

     The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary
Concious that this novel, from its English title onwards, presents special problems for translators, I dedicate it to all those who, over many years, have applied their skills to the translation of my work into various languages, and especially to some who have become personal friends: Marc Amfreville, Mary Gislon and Rosetta Palazzi, Maurice and Yvonne Couturier, Armand Eloi and Beatrice Hammer, Luo Yirong, Suzanne Mayoux, Renate Orth-Guttmann, and Susumu Tagaki.
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The tall, bespectacled, grey-haired man standing at the edge of the throng in the main room of the gallery, stooping very close to the young women in the red silk blouse, his head lowered and angled away from her face, nodding sagely and emitting a phatic murmur from time to time, is not as you might think an off-duty priest whom she has persuaded to hear her confession in the midst of the party, or a psychiatrist conned into giving her a free consultation; nor has he adopted this posture the better to look down the front of her blouse, though this is an accidental bonus of his situation, the only one in fact.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670019925, Hardcover)

The subject of enthusiastic and widespread reviews, David Lodge's fourteenth work of fiction displays the humor and shrewd observations that have made him a much-loved icon. Deaf Sentence tells the story of Desmond Bates, a recently retired linguistics professor in his mid-sixties. Vexed by his encroaching deafness and at loose ends in his personal life, Desmond inadvertently gets involved with a seemingly personable young American female student who seeks his support in matters academic and not so academic, who finally threatens to destabilize his life completely with her unpredictable-and wayward-behavior. What emerges is a funny, moving account of one man's effort to come to terms with aging and mortality-a classic meditation on modern middle age that fans of David Lodge will love.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:01:29 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

When the university merged his Department of Linguistics with English, Professor Desmond Bates took early retirement, but he is not enjoying it. But his daily discontent is nothing compared to the affliction of hearing loss, which is a constant source of domestic friction and social embarrassment. In the popular imagination, he observes, deafness is comic, as blindness is tragic, but for the deaf person himself it is no joke. It is through his deafness that Desmond inadvertently gets involved with a young woman whose wayward and unpredictable behavior threatens to destabilize his life completely.… (more)

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