From Publishers Weekly
Examining noise as a social barometer of sorts, this book covers a wide spectrum, from revolution to religion. The author neatly handles a symphony of facts and ideas, offering frequent summations like "The history of noise abatement is to a large degree about dividing space into noisy and quiet areas" and "The combination of flatness and proximity to water complicates as well as exacerbates certain problems of noise" that demonstrate his passion for the subject. A sophisticated thread woven through the many genres and locales reveals not only subtle sonic connections but also the author's Achilles' heel. Addressing the importance of human cooperation over selfishness and isolation, Keizer offers that people "need to love... their backyards with the same particularity as they love their own children - not to the total exclusion of other children, which would ultimately hurt their own children, but with the passion and partiality that are of the nature of love." This is but one of a cacophony of platitudes that the book falls victim to so that by the end, an unquestionably important perspective is smothered under a lot of preaching.
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Like Edward Tenner’s Why Things Bite Back: The Revenge of Unintended Consequences (1996), this engaging book explores the unforeseen (and sometimes unwanted) side effects of our inventive natures. We usually use the word noise as a pejorative, a term denoting unwanted sound: somebody’s loud music, a blaring car alarm, the din from a nearby airport. But, as Keizer points out, noise is often—perhaps even usually—a product of human achievement, invention, or ambition. In broad terms, you can’t have civilization without noise. You can’t have construction without it, or some forms of entertainment, or mass transit. The author explores noise from a number of angles, touching on what he calls the logic of the loud (“my noise is my right,” says the noisemaker) and the curious fact that the phrase “making noise” is now an anachronism (because most noise is automatic these days, produced by machines). An enlightening look at an issue most of us ignore. --David Pitt