Eavesdropping A life by ear

Stephen Kuusisto

Book - 2006

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BIOGRAPHY/Kuusisto, Stephen
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New York : W.W. Norton c2006.
1st ed
Physical Description
xiv, 186 p. ; 22 cm
Main Author
Stephen Kuusisto (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Kuusisto stunned readers with his unique first memoir, Planet of the Blind (1998), and now, following a poetry collection, Only Bread, Only Light (2000), he continues his inquiry into the consequences of blindness in scintillating linked essays that chronicle his learning to live life by ear. Kuusisto reveals more of his disturbing childhood, during which his brooding grandmother became his first "guru of listening." The future writer spends hours alone enthralled by birdsong, rain, the radio, and vintage recordings of Caruso. As Kuusisto recounts further seminal moments and improbable adventures, he presents exquisitely rendered soundscapes that capture aspects of the world most of us barely register, from the storm of traffic to the cacophony of our myriad machines to the songs of trees. As he goes "sight-seeing by ear" in places as diverse as Iceland and Venice, and celebrates the music and literature that sustain him, Kuusisto foregrounds the aural realm and evinces great tenacity and trust in his candid tales of life as an acute and contemplative listener in a loud and hectic world. ((Reviewed September 1, 2006)) Copyright 2006 Booklist Reviews

Review by Library Journal Reviews

The author of the highly regarded Planet of the Blind instructs us in the fine art of listening. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

In two well-received previous works, the memoir Planet of the Blind and the poetry volume Only Bread, Only Light, Kuusisto (disability studies, Ohio State Univ., Columbus) has explored his life as a blind man in a sighted world. Neither an in-depth insightful prose memoir nor traditional poetry, his latest work is a collection of what Kuusisto terms "auditory postcards," or "tone poems." Eavesdropping is a series of essays about living and traveling by ear. It is divided into two parts, the first section covering Kuusisto's childhood and formative influences, such as classical music and birdsong, and the second section covering adult travel. Kuusisto's word pictures create layered landscapes while using visual imagery, and he occasionally describes what he literally sees, the colors of shifting light. Readers interested in Kuusisto's experiences, sensory and otherwise (e.g., visiting Iceland to hear the Buena Vista Social Club), and with the reality and meaning he constructs from them, will be entranced. Those looking for a more connected, linear narrative will be better served reading his earlier memoir. A recommended purchase for academic and larger public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/06.] Audrey Snowden, Cleveland P.L. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Most of us see the layers of space, but Kuusisto, who has been legally blind since birth, hears them. In these vivid essays, the poet (Only Bread, Only Light ) and memoirist (Planet of the Blind ) indulges and investigates the active listening he deploys to navigate the world around him. He is a keen observer. A crowd is not a crowd to him; instead it is a series of sound points, indicating space, pace, rhythm and mood. The wind is just as complex, as it "carries fragments of noise from far places like an absentminded uncle who doesn't remember what's in his old suitcase." Music is a constant companion, starting with trees tapping on windows, birds calling and his discovery of a Victrola in his grandmother's dusty attic. At times, he lists sounds to guide the reader through his interpretation of a scene, as when he comes upon "four hundred drunken men pushing and cursing" in an airport in Tallinn, Estonia, their boots making the "metaphysical noise called 'the edge of night.' " Through all these sounds and their meaning to him, Kuusisto reveals the nuance of the heard world, transporting the reader as he maps the aural landscape. (Sept.) [Page 48]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

The poet-author offers a vivid memoir about listening to the world around him, discussing key episodes in his life, from his youth to his global travels during which he encountered the art of sightseeing by ear.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

The poet-author of Only Bread, Only Light and Planet of the Blind offers a vivid memoir about listening to the world around, discussing key episodes in his life, from his youth during which he discovered his own curiosity and imagination, to his global travels during which he encountered the art of sightseeing by ear.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

In accepting Kuusisto's invitation to experience his world, the reader enters a realm of poetry, music, travel, and the art of eavesdropping. Kuusisto explains how he has perfected this art throughout his life and invites the reader to do the same. His language demonstrates how well he has put the art of eavesdropping to use in developing a nuanced and crystalline prose. Kuusisto is a poet and essayist who teaches courses in disability studies at Ohio State U. Annotation ©2007 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Review by Publisher Summary 4

A memoir of blindness and listening rendered with a poet's delight by the author of the acclaimed Planet of the Blind.

Review by Publisher Summary 5

Blind people are not casual listeners. Blind since birth, Stephen Kuusisto recounts with a poet's sense of detail the surprise that comes when we are actively listening to our surroundings. There is an art to eavesdropping. Like Annie Dillard's An American Childhood or Dorothy Allison's One or Two Things I Know for Sure, Kuusisto's memoir highlights periods of childhood when a writer first becomes aware of his curiosity and imagination. As a boy he listened to Caruso records in his grandmother's attic and spent hours in the New Hampshire woods learning the calls of birds. As a grown man the writer visits cities around the world in order to discover the art of sightseeing by ear. Whether the reader is interested in disability, American poetry, music, travel, or the art of eavesdropping, he or she will find much to hear and even "see" in this unique celebration of a hearing life.

Review by Publisher Summary 6

An American ChildhoodOne or Two Things I Know for Sure