Friday, January 09, 2015

`Loss Is What We Hear'

Incipient deafness has its consolations. It’s easier to ignore witless chatter, the obligatory noise-making of those unhappy with dignified silence. And there is what Les Murray in “Hearing Impairment” (The Daylight Moon, 1987) calls, in shouted caps, “THE SAD SURREALISM OF THE DEAF”: 

“Hearing loss? Yes, loss is what we hear
who are starting to go deaf. Loss
trails a lot of weird puns in its wake…” 

One tries to compensate with “active listening,” as opposed to passive hearing, but learns to enjoy the garble, the mind’s futile efforts to make sense of the inadequately perceived, to fill in the blanks. This morning, an otolaryngologist will rebuild my left eardrum – the procedure is called tympanoplasty – and implant a prosthetic bone of titanium. I don’t expect full stereo, just no more mono. In “In the Park” (Not Waving but Drowning, 1957), Stevie Smith overhears “two silvered gentlemen” talking. One says: “Pray for the Mute.” His hard-of-hearing friend, after rhapsodizing the amphibian, says, “`Pray for the Mute?’ / I thought you said the newt.” When Muriel Spark reviewed Smith’s book in 1957 she observed: “The main theme of this collection is that life is fairly deplorable and yet must be praised.”

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