The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise

Keizer, Garret. The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise. PublicAffairs: Perseus. 2010. 400p. ISBN 9781586485528. $27.95.

Keizer (Help; The Enigma of Anger) notes that while no one thinks much about noise, we sure do prize our quiet. Noise could be defined as “unwanted sound,” but when one really considers how much of it there is around, that subjective definition is silly. Is it the incessant ice cream truck bell? Noisy to us, but not to the kids who want ice cream. Noise is ever-present; as I wrote this, I was trying to tune out a nearby lawn mower, the murmurs coming out of a meeting in the back room, traffic noise, and the desperate, hoarse pleas of the prisoners I have locked in the coat closet. Keizer focuses on the social aspects of noise as a concept that has many meanings. It’s about power and class-those who don’t want noise near them (e.g., wealthy suburbanites) shunt it off on those who cannot fight back (e.g., urban poor who live near highways). It’s also about economics because civilization goes nowhere fast without a hell of a lot of big, loud machines. So many aspects of social history are woven into this mix that it is a seemingly never-ending story. This book is great on at least three levels: it is well written, has energetic writing, and will challenge readers to think.

This review appeared in Library Journal’s Books for Dudes How To Be Hard-Core (or Fake It Well) ; the galley was shredded on May 19, 2012.

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