From Publishers Weekly
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.)
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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. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved