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Book Review: The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want by Garret Keizer

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If I was browsing a bookstore, The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book about Noise (New York: Public Affairs; 2010) is not a book for which I’d have spent my money. For the most part, I’m a recreational reader and books about noise pollution are not my idea of recreational reading. I was surprised when LibraryThing Early Reviewers sent me Unwanted Sound because I didn’t (and still don’t) remember requesting the book. When I opened the package I cried: “Somebody made a mistake!” and I just knew that it couldn’t possibly be me.

Unwanted SoundBe that as it may, I’ve had the book for more than a year and still owe a review. Conscience demands that I pay the debt and, in any event, I think Keizer’s book merits public attention. So I write this now.

I could go on at length in praise of author Garret Keizer. I could laud Keizer for the courage he displayed in attempting a book on a subject so immense and so diffuse as noise pollution, the nature of the problem, its social and economic and political aspects, what the existence of the problem implies about each of us as individuals, about America as a nation, and about humanity as a species. I could rave about Keizer’s mastery of prose style and rhetoric, his command of analogy, of irony, of logic, his sense of humor and his humility. I could screech and holler about the breadth and depth of Keizer’s reading, the legwork entailed in research for this book. All of those things (and more) shine brightly on the pages of Unwanted Sound.

I could also confess that I’m a bit jealous of Keizer’s experience with Harper’s Magazine staff, of his acquaintance and experience with men such as master essayist and former Harper’s editor Lewis H. Lapham, whose delightful prose style so obviously influenced Keizer’s own, fine hand.

I could go on, as I said, but I won’t. The most I will say in praise of Keizer and his book is that Library Thing sent me a paperback review copy of Unwanted Sound. I spent a month with the paperback before buying a copy in hardcover, which I intend to keep. If Keizer ever comes to a bookstore near me, I’ll take my hardcover and ask him to sign it. I’ll do that because The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book about Noise is as fine a work of public-affairs journalism as I have ever read.

The whole truth is that I spent much of my spare time for most of a year going back and forth through Unwanted Sound looking for something — anything substantial — for which I could fault Keizer’s work. Other than a couple of measly typos, I didn’t spot a single flaw. Ergo: either my mean eye ain’t as mean as I’ve been told it is, or Garret Keizer is a really good author.

Solomon sez: Get a copy of The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want. Read the book. Decide for yourself.

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About Deacon "Deke" Solomon