In Pursuit of Silence
Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise
By George Prochnik
(Doubleday, Hardcover, 9780385528887, 352pp.)
Publication Date: April 6, 2010
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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More than money, power, and even happiness, silence has become the most precious—and dwindling—commodity of our modern world.
Between iPods, music-blasting restaurants, earsplitting sports stadiums, and endless air and road traffic, the place for quiet in our lives grows smaller by the day. In Pursuit of Silence gives context to our increasingly desperate sense that noise pollution is, in a very real way, an environmental catastrophe. Listening to doctors, neuroscientists, acoustical engineers, monks, activists, educators, marketers, and aggrieved citizens, George Prochnik examines why we began to be so loud as a society, and what it is that gets lost when we can no longer find quiet. He shows us the benefits of decluttering our sonic world.
As Prochnik travels across the United States and overseas, we meet a rich host of characters: an idealistic architect who is pioneering a new kind of silent architecture in collaboration with the Deaf community at Gallaudet University; a special operations soldier in Afghanistan (and former guitarist with Nirvana) who places silence at the heart of survival in war; a sound designer for shopping malls who ensures that the stores we visit never stop their auditory seductions; and a group of commuters who successfully revolted against piped-in music in Grand Central Station.
A brilliant, far-reaching exploration of the frontiers of noise and silence, and the growing war between them, In Pursuit of Silence is an important book that will appeal to fans of Michael Pollan and Daniel Gilbert.
GEORGE PROCHNIK is the author of Putnam Camp: Sigmund Freud, James Jackson Putnam, and the Purpose of American Psychology, a New York Times “Editor’s Choice” pick and winner of a 2007 Gradiva Award. He has written for the New York Times, the Boston Globe, Playboy, and Cabinet magazine, among other publications. He lives in Brooklyn.
Writer George Prochnik says there's plenty of evidence that noise can be harmful as well as annoying, with studies pointing to hearing loss — and even risks of higher blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. His new book, In Pursuit of Silence, is a study of noise in the modern world. More at NPR.org
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“George Prochnik has gifted us with an impassioned, searching meditation on the antique virtues of silence, the evolving natural history of our most overtaxed sense, the etiology of sound in the modern world and the discrete joys of earbud-free listening. Find a quiet corner in which to read this book, but then go out into the world and be prepared to hear it anew.”
—Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic
”A fascinating—and often funny—look at our most abused sense. Turn off your iPod and read this book.”
—Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe
"Elegant and eloquent."
—New York Times
"[A] genial and informative study of the noisiness of modern life."
—The New Republic
"Smart... Silence is good for falling asleep, but Prochnik's attentive take on noise keeps us wide awake."
"A lucid, balanced appreciation of silence's solemn tonic."