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Deaf Sentence: A Novel by David Lodge

Deaf Sentence: A Novel (edition 2008)

by David Lodge

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8264810,967 (3.66)33
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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Twice short-listed for a Booker Prize, David Lodge, a British author has a novel in a sub-genre I really enjoy – novels set in Academia. His 2008 novel, Deaf Sentence, is a darkly comic tale of Professor Desmond Bates and his wife Fred, who is a partner in a home décor and design business.

Professor Bates headed the linguistics department at a university. He began losing his hearing, and when he was offered an early retirement he took it. Fortunately, his wife had partnered with a friend in the opening of her business, and as he retired, the business picked up, and the couple had a healthy income. He also cares for his elderly father, whom he visits once a week to spend the day.

Desmond occasionally regrets his retirement. Lodge Writes, “At first it was very enjoyable, like a long sabbatical, but after eighteen months or so his freedom from routine tasks and duties began to pall. He missed the calendar of the academic year which had given his life a shape for such a long time, its passage marked by reassuringly predictable events: the arrival of the excited and expectant [freshman] every autumn; the Department Christmas party with its traditional sketches by students mimicking the mannerisms and favorite jargon of members of staff; the reading week in the spring term when they took the second year to a residential conference centre in the Lake district; the examiners meetings in the summer term when, sitting round a long table heaped with marked scripts and extended essays, they calculated and classified the Finals results like gods dispensing rewards and punishments to mortals; and finally the [commencement] itself, processing to organ music in the Assembly hall, listening to the University Orator fulsomely summarize the achievements of honorary [graduates], shaking hands afterward with proud parents and their begowned children sipping fruit punch fruit punch under the marquee erected on the Round Lawn, after which all dispersed to a well-earned long vacation. He missed the rhythm of the academic year as a peasant might miss differences between seasons if they were suddenly withdrawn; and he found he missed too the structure of the academic week, the full diary of teaching assignments, postgraduate supervisions, essay marking, committee meetings, interviews, and deadlines for this and that required report, tasks he used to grumble about but the completion of which, however trivial and ephemeral they were, gave a kind of low-level satisfaction, and ensured that one never, ever, had to confront the question: what shall I do with myself today? In retirement, he confronted it every morning as soon as he woke” (28).

This passage seems eerily prescient as inch toward retirement myself.

David Lodge has a couple of items, which gave me pause; however, I quickly adapted to his style. Of course, the long sentences and extensive use of the English Major’s carefully protected and hoarded punctuation mark – the semi-colon. But all in all, a pleasant read for anyone who has spent more than a few years in academia. David Lodge’s novel, Deaf Sentence, holds a well-earned spot on my shelf of fiction set in academia. 5 stars.

--Jim, 11/28/15 ( )
  rmckeown | Dec 5, 2015 |
endearing, funny, intelligent, droll... sad.

David Lodge is one of those writers whose prose can carry me on even if i’m finding the plot and/or content a bit dull. which i am not with regards to this book. but i think i would read his words even if i did.

i do think that Mr. Lodge perhaps likes to alternately indulge and poke fun at the nerdy academic’s restrained manner (especially in Britain) with regards to sex by writing some possible fantasies “out loud.” it makes for quite a saucy tale but one that also makes one roll one’s eyes a smidge.

he also pokes his fun at deafness and uses semantic noise often to get there. like mondegreens but with spoken word, the protagonist, Desmond, is constantly mishearing things like his grandchild saying she got an icicle for christmas. “not much of a present,” he responds. the other family members laugh and immediately correct him: the child received a tricycle.

as funny as this can be, there is a melancholy edge to much of it. nestled within the deaf humor is the story of disability, aging parents, adult blended families, a grad student with boundary issues, and even the macabre. the characters are wonderfully shown in their own unique lights in a lovingly humorous way. when Desmond’s son Richard comes to christmas he is described as being sneaky and then as acting like a guest at a party who knows not one soul there.

i’m not sure i would call this book deep but it certainly does make you think about some things and gives few good laughs as it rolls snappily along towards a bittersweet ending. ( )
  keebrook | Mar 10, 2015 |
I grew up surrounded by deafness. However, my mother and two great aunts, although "stone deaf" were great troupers, seemingly unabashed by this "handicap", loving life as it was, laughing at the miscommunications that would occur.. They did not express the frustration and embarrassment that the protagonist of this book did. It was others who reacted with frustration and irritation to them. One restaurant asked my mother not to bring my great aunt back because she spoke so loudly in a penetrating voice. I could imagine Desmond Bates noting that that would never happen to a blind person. And Lodge is correct--"blindness is tragic, but deafness is comic". At first I was impatient with with Bates' struggles with his "disability" because of what I had observed in my family. I wanted to say, "Suck it up." The relationship between Bates and his younger wife never seemed believable to me. What on earth did she see in him? Their total interaction seemed to be sex. But, perhaps that's how men in general see marriage. I found the book to be not only funny, but educational-- interesting linguistics terms and observations, quotations from poets I hadn't read. The book made me reflect on my own increasing deafness and gave me several directions to go in choosing what to read next - how exciting is that?! ( )
  Elleneer | Dec 11, 2014 |
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 |
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:37 -0400)

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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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