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Zero Decibels: The Quest for Absolute Silence Hardcover – May 18, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1st ptg edition (May 18, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416599592
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416599593
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #906,322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Overwhelmed by the savage but routine overdose of noise in New York City, NYU creative writing instructor Foy zealously sought out silence in its various incarnations. But absolute silence eluded him: underwater in his bathtub the roaring metropolis was amplified by the denser medium of water; in Paris's catacombs a distant hum persisted among the stacked skulls and bones; and in his family home on Cape Cod the absence of excessive sound, rather than soothing him, made him conscious of the absence of his recently deceased mother. Yet in a Minneapolis anechoic chamber, he felt rested, relaxed, and triumphant, becoming the first person to stay in the dark and silent chamber alone for 45 minutes. Along the way, Foy met a man with cochlear implants who actually hears something when the implants are disabled even though his cochlea were destroyed by meningitis; and Foy recounts how in 1996 a Greek islander shot to death a neighbor who blasted music on her radio every evening. The author's quixotic quest is quirky, inventive, and alluring, and readers everywhere whose auditory nerves are rattled by the shriek of car horns or babies will readily identify. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Foy’s thinking about quietude began where it never exists: the New York City subway. With an audiometer, he measured the decibels of its deafening cacophony in addition to levels in his apartment, the street, and the former mansion of Joseph Pulitzer, who hated noise. So acting as empiricist, Foy deployed his gadget everywhere he went for this book, including a space shuttle launch and a Cistercian monastery in France; but acting as a writer, Foy explored variegated aspects of silence. He studied evolutionary explanations for humans’ acuity of hearing; he queried scientists who research the physics of sound; he spoke with members of cultural groups that prize silence over conversation; and he sorted through philosophers and authors who valued quiet. As part of his sound project, Foy also moved his family away from Manhattan’s ambient clamor to quieter yet still audible Massachusetts, where no remission was found from the modern world’s relentless aural assault from televisions, cell phones, and irate drivers. Foy’s is an adventurous and perceptively ruminative investigation of acoustical annoyances. --Gilbert Taylor

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By W. John Harrison on October 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although the conclusion isn't very satisfying, the writing is lively and engaging, teaching what it needs to as it explores the author's quest.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By JohnBurns on June 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Encapsulates how much we are constantly assaulted by noise. Foy looks at all angles of sound, hearing and silence. I found his final thesis a bit disappointing.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By GunHawk on December 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Our books are always chosen for a purpose. a person and for our reading pleasure. Any that we order here we have researched and they are instantly a favorite in our library!
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful By M. Lang on January 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
A wonderful concept, with a few fascinating nuggets, unfortunately buried in a noisy ocean of the author's introspective and self-centered perspective, which totally drowns out the essence of the topic. If I want to read about someone's personal perspective on life, I suggest Montaigne, not Michelsen.
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14 of 33 people found the following review helpful By T. Hadley on May 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Heard the author interviewed on NPR: Here & Now. The topic is interesting and timely, given the amount of ambient noise we have to put up with every day, and the toll it takes on our lives. Hearing health is a neglected area in our society and any examination of the dangers, physical & psychological, are welcome.
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