Every year my sons ask the same question: “What do you want for Father’s Day, Dad?” And every year I give the same answer: “Peace and quiet.” They’ve even abbreviated my reply to “P&Q,” but I’m serious about peace and quiet. I don’t want anything else (Socks? Golf balls? A pipe?), especially on the occasion of a sappy, guilt-driven holiday, and I need even less. I came from a family where uneasy silence was punctuated at irregular intervals by shouting. For a quarter-century I worked as a newspaper reporter. In a newsroom, people write for deadline amid the din of police scanners, televisions, conversations and more shouting. The sonically sensitive soon grow extinct.
Today, I can write and read almost anywhere, though my preference is for quiet (and peace). Unlike some, I can’t listen to music while reading or writing, or carry on a coherent conversation. When I listen to music, that’s what I’m doing: listening, an occupation unto itself. I’ve never voluntarily occupied the same room as “background music.” I can’t afford to be a prima donna and demand Trappist silence, but I hate arguing and mindless chatter. Long ago I adjusted to the fact that most of the world feels otherwise. In Giorgio Morandi: Work, Writings and Interviews (2007), Karen Wilkin includes an interview the great Italian painter gave to Eduardo Roditi in 1960. Morandi ascribes no mystical significance to peace and quiet. His desire is pragmatic: “My only ambition is to enjoy the peace and quiet which I require in order to work.”