bookreview   1706

« earlier    

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!
Get­ting older—every­one’s fa­vorite al­ter­na­tive to dy­ing—in­evitably means a loss of hear­ing. Even if that seems far away in your own fu­ture, it’s likely you at least in­ter­act with some­one in your life who is suf­fer­ing hear­ing loss right now—par­ent, grand­par­ent, spouse. Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, within 30 years there will be nearly 1 bil­lion peo­ple with hear­ing loss. And to­day, for the first time, there are more peo­ple in the world over 65 than un­der 5. You may have heard that chil­dren are our fu­ture. They’re not. Old peo­ple are. Lots of them.

“Vol­ume Con­trol: Hear­ing in a Deaf­en­ing World” by New Yorker writer David Owen, is not just for those who are ag­ing and con­tem­plat­ing hear­ing loss. It is the best primer I’ve ever read on sound and hear­ing, and full of ad­vice for peo­ple of any age to con­sider if they want to pre­serve their abil­ity to lis­ten to mu­sic, carry on con­ver­sa­tions in restau­rants, be ca­pa­ble of ac­cu­rately de­tect­ing sar­casm, or lis­ten to the pres­i­den­tial de­bates (who’d want to lose that abil­ity?).
I wish this book could have been read by the five or six pro­fes­sors I had as a stu­dent, who tried and failed to ex­plain how hear­ing ac­tu­ally works. Mr. Owen is gifted with analo­gies. “The os­si­cles func­tion the way a lever does,” he writes of the tiny bones in the mid­dle ear, “by trans­lat­ing a small force ex­erted over a large dis­tance on the rel­a­tively large eardrum into a much larger force ex­erted over a small dis­tance on the rel­a­tively small in­ner ear.”
We learn about some evo­lu­tion­ary won­ders. I knew that bats used echolo­ca­tion, but I didn’t know that the high-fre­quency pings they emit were also ex­tremely loud, “as loud as if the bats were fir­ing guns from their mouths. The in­ten­sity is so great that bats would be in dan­ger of deaf­en­ing them­selves if they weren’t able to tem­porarily dis­en­gage their own hear­ing: A few thou­sandths of a sec­ond be­fore they make each vo­cal­iza­tion, their au­di­tory mus­cles con­tract tightly.” This tem­porarily dis­en­gages their own hear­ing, which re­turns af­ter just a few thou­sandths of a sec­ond more, so that they can lis­ten for the re­turn­ing echoes. And the bat echolo­ca-tion story gets weirder. One of their nat­ural prey, a par­tic­u­lar kind of moth, have evolved scales on their wings and a fur-like coat on their bod­ies to ab­sorb sound waves and act as “acoustic cam­ou­flage,” which I’m sure dri­ves the preda­tors batty.
But caveat emp­tor: “the ears you’re born with are the only ears you get,” Mr. Owen writes, “un­like taste buds and ol­fac­tory re­cep­tors, which the body con­stantly re­plen­ishes, the most frag­ile el­e­ments don’t re­gen­er­ate. . . . The con­se­quences of even mod­er­ate hear­ing loss can be grave.

Emerg­ing DNA ther­a­pies may (we hope) be able to re­verse that de­te­ri­o­ra-tion. New tech­nolo­gies and ther­a­pies are be­ing ex­plored at a rapid pace, so al­though it sounds odd to say, this is per­haps the best time in his­tory to be get­ting old. Con­ven­tional hear­ing aids are get­ting bet­ter all the time: The cur­rent crop of them al­low for con­ve­nient user-ad­just­ment, in­stead of the by­gone time- and cost-con­sum­ing in-of­fice ad­just­ments of “yester-ear.” And the es­tab­lished tech­nolo­gies are im­prov­ing. Mr. Owen de­scribes one new de­vice that doesn’t pre­tend to be un­ob­tru­sive, “Hear­phones,” which al­low for larger bat­ter­ies (and longer bat­tery life) as well as bet­ter lo­cal­iza-tion of sounds in a crowded room. Hear­ing aids aren’t par­tic­u­larly good for lis­ten­ing to mu­sic (yet). They can, how­ever, cer­tainly keep you part of con­ver­sa­tions that you’d like to be in on, and for those that you don’t want to? Sorry (shrug), my bat­ter­ies died.

Mr. Lev­itin is a neu­ro­sci­en­tist and the au­thor of the forth­com­ing “Suc­cessful Ag­ing.”
BookReview  ToRead  Gift  WSJ  2019 
23 days ago by richardwinter
Janet Malcolm, "Susan Sontag and the Unholy Practice of Biography" (The New Yorker)
"Discretion so quickly turns into indiscretion under the exciting spell of undivided attention."
JanetMalcolm  NewYorker  SusanSontag  BookReview  biography  criticism 
5 weeks ago by briansholis
Patricia Lockwood reviews ‘Novels, 1959-65’ by John Updike · LRB 10 October 2019
"I was hired as an assassin. You don’t bring in a 37-year-old woman to review John Updike in the year of our Lord 2019 unless you’re hoping to see blood on the ceiling. ‘Absolutely not,’ I said when first approached, because I knew I would try to read everything, and fail, and spend days trying to write an adequate description of his nostrils, and all I would be left with after months of standing tiptoe on the balance beam of objectivity and fair assessment would be a letter to the editor from some guy named Norbert accusing me of cutting off a great man’s dong in print. But then the editors cornered me drunk at a party, and here we are."

"If you were worried that somewhere in this sweeping tetralogy Rabbit wasn’t going to ejaculate all over a teenager and then compare the results to a napalmed child, you can rest easy."

"You’re almost glad Updike drowned Becky instead of letting her grow up, because you know Rabbit would have dedicated whole paragraphs to her ass; in describing his granddaughter’s mouth in Rabbit at Rest, he writes: ‘Some man some day will use that tongue.’ Awww, Grandpa!"

"Critics did have the high-flying hopes for him of the sort that read more like patriotism than anything else. It wasn’t just that he showed such promise in the beginning, it was that writing didn’t seem to cause him pain, and he seemed somehow able to love everything he had ever done, though he might occasionally express gentle retrospective regret over terminology or excess."

"A better question might be why nothing sticks to him. [...] This may be because, beyond his early work, he is not actually being read.

I suspect it also has something to do with his own body of criticism, which is not just game and generous but able, as his fiction is not, to reach deeply into the objectives of other human beings, even to see into the minds of women."

"One wishes not so much for an editor as for a brutal anti-American waxer to swoop in."

"Wallace’s vivisection of Updike’s misogyny seems calm and cool and virtuous, and then you remember that to the best of anyone’s knowledge Updike never tried to push a woman out of a moving car."
PatriciaLockwood  LRB  JohnUpdike  BookReview  sexism  2019Faves 
5 weeks ago by briansholis
‘A Brief History of Seven Killings,’ by Marlon James - The New York Times
There is always too much history to keep track of — the daily news is itself an impossible barrage — and so a certain kind of novel has evolved to shape narratives out of such chaos, not to find answers, but to capture the way history feels, how it maims, bewilders, enmeshes us.
Literature  BookReview 
6 weeks ago by EMPD
Impossible Conversations - Areo
A review of Peter Boghossian and James A. Lindsay’s Impossible Conversations: A Very Practical Guide (2019)
bookreview  philosophy  socraticmethod  conversations 
9 weeks ago by kongharald
need to find a paying gig where i write day in and day out... Love writing about good books almost as m…
BookReview  from twitter
12 weeks ago by zobelg
Malcolm Gladwell Reaches His Tipping Point
After 20 years, has the author’s formula at last been exhausted?
article  bookreview  theatlantic  socialresearch  malcomgladwell 
12 weeks ago by dwight
Katy Waldman, "Can One Sentence Capture All of Life?"
"Much of the pleasure of this book is the pleasure of learning a puzzle’s rules. We acquaint ourselves with the narrator by noticing which lines from old poems stick in her head and what pop culture she uses as a reference point. Reading her thoughts is like peeking in on a nanny cam…"
KatyWaldman  NewYorker  BookReview  fiction  LucyEllman 
september 2019 by briansholis
Charlotte Shane, "Still Eating Animals"
"The problem isn’t a lack of information, it’s an absence of action; with each viral doomsday article, our inertia and our hopelessness compound. We, like the climate, are stuck in a feedback loop, generating momentum for our complacency from our complacency."

"As is true for climate change, the relevant information is widely available, widely confirmed, and points to a single conclusion: In its current iteration, no dimension of animal farming is ethically defensible or even ethically tolerable. It entails grotesque, unceasing suffering for sentient beings whose only moment of mercy is death. It consumes obscene amounts of resources—water, grain, electricity, land—to produce a modest number of calories, calories laced with feces and pus, pumped full of antibiotics that create resistant bacteria."

"The wide-ranging horrors of animal farming, in my estimation, explain why the topic is so radioactive even among otherwise progressive, Far Left thinkers, a number of whom I’ve seen react to mentions of veganism with an incensed disdain usually reserved for the #BlueLivesMatter crowd."

"Omnivores don’t want to be forced to acknowledge what they already know, because, in this instance, a moral response can’t be fudged or faked or only acted upon now and then. To take a stand against animal farming entails taking it multiple times a day, every day, whenever you want to eat."

"No matter how otherwise constrained our circumstances, we can always choose each other, choose solidarity, choose effort. Every time we do, we’re making headway toward a new habit, a self-reinforcing orientation that alters the fabric of who we are and how we live."
2019Faves  Bookforum  CharlotteShane  veganism  JonathanSafranFoer  BookReview  CollectiveAction  politics 
september 2019 by briansholis

« earlier    

related tags

*  2015faves  2018faves  2019  2019faves  4columns  africa  alicegregory  art  article  autoimmune  beccarothfield  bgjews  biography  biology  bitola  blog  book  book_critique  bookforum  bookrecommendations  books  briandillon  broadway  calvinism  cars  certainty  chaos  charlotteshane  chile  china  christianliving  christianlorentzen  cityjournal  cohen_book  collectiveaction  comics  commentary  complementarianism  conservatism-taxation  conservatism  conversations  counterculture  criticism  cslewis  culturalcriticism  culture  cyberbullying  daniel  darkmountain  data  david-sloan-wilson  davidshields  development  dialogue  diaries  dissent  dna  driving  economics  editorial  energy  enneagram  essays  europe  evangelicals  evolution-misunderstanding  evolution  facts  family  fantasy  fdr  feminism  fiction  frontporchrepublic  gender  genetics  gift  goodread  gop-economics  group-selection  haptics  health  history  historyofscience  humility  identity  immigration  intellectualhistory  interview  janetmalcolm  johnd'agata  johnupdike  jonathansafranfoer  judaism  katywaldman  kazakhstan  larb  lbj  lesliejamison  library  linguistics  literarycriticism  literature  love  lrb  lsd  lucyellman  malcomgladwell  marilynnerobinson  markgreif  maslon  mbird  measurement  memoir  mentalhealth  merrick-garland  metrics  microdosing  monastir  nationality  neural  neworleans  newsblog  newyorker  newyorkmag  nixon  npr  nypost  nytimes  paradox  parulsehgal  patricialockwood  paul-ryan  philosophy  politics  prayer  pride  psmag  psychedelics  psychiatry  psychology  publicdiscourse  quantifiedself  radical-right  reading  reference  religious-right  review  russia  sanctification  sarahleonard  sarahmanguso  schizophrenia  science  seansilver  seansiver  self-help  self-presentation  sephardicstudies  sexism  sexuality  slavery  socialmedia  socialresearch  socraticmethod  southern-strategy  space  statistics  susansontag  technology  texas  theatlantic  thenation  theology  theverge  theweek  timesliterarysupplement  to-read  tobuy  tootme  toread  transgender  transhumanism  transportation  trevinwax  tuesdaybookblog  tylercowen  urbanism  veganism  warrenbuffet  webarchive  wgsebald  williamderesiewicz  worldhistory  writing  wsj  ya  zadiesmith 

Copy this bookmark: