"From the moment sixteen-year-old Madison Grant is abducted, an unthinkable terrorist plot is set in motion--pitting Special Agent Kelly Jones against her most powerful adversary yet. The kidnapper's ransom demands aren't monetary...they come at a cost that no American can afford to pay. As Kelly's fianc©♭, Jake Riley, races to find Madison, Kelly is assigned to another disturbing case: the murder and dismemberment of a senator. At first the two cases don't appear to be related. But as Kelly navigates her way through the darkest communities of America--from skinheads to biker gangs to border militias--she discovers a horrible truth. A shadowy figure who calls himself The Gatekeeper is uniting hate groups, opening the door to the worst homegrown attack in American history."--p.  of cover.
I was impressed with the author's willingness to look at noise as an issue of class. The poor are expected to tolerate what the rich would not, with noise as with so many other quality-of-life issues. And the author is not afraid to look at his own contribution to that issue, asking what is more important: his need for air travel to research a book, or a child under the flight path trying to learn to read a book?
I think he missed a few opportunities, but overall, a worthwhile book on a too-seldom heard topic.
The book itself is interesting and informative. Keizer relies on both research and anecdote. For me, the reliance is too often on the latter as Keizer lets his own views and annoyances drive the narrative at times. Still, a useful and worthwhile read if only because this subject is completely ignore by most of us, and the problem of unwanted noise will only grow worse as population densities continue to rise.
Keizer uses noise as both metaphor and literal subject to explore American culture, the rise of industrialism, social injustice, environmental degradation, and many other ills of modern society. Tracing the history of noise back to the classical period, he asks what makes noise "noise" and why addressing it is such a low priority in our society, despite its clearly damaging effects.
The problem, he explains, is both that those disproportionately affected by noise lack the power needed to challenge it, and that noise is positively associated with things like freedom, progress, democracy, and so on. He suggests that a quieter mode of living - by which he means not only a way of life with less unwanted sound but also one that sits more lightly on the environment and the less-privileged - is not opposed to those things, but a truer, more sustainable expression of them.
In so doing he not only provides an interesting look at noise and what it means, but makes a compelling argument for a world in which the laughter of children, bird song, and a good night's sleep are valued as much as raucous parties, fast cars, and the roar of jet engines. Questioning the priority of noise, he argues, makes it possible to question everything that enables it.
These are questions that need desperately to be asked. Ironically, this quiet, thoughtful book speaks loudly enough to be heard amid the cacophony of voices demanding ever more, while never asking who suffers. Here's hoping that more people will listen.
Garret Keizer has written an important book. I don't mean it's particularly well-written - I think it could have been about thirty pages shorter. No, what I mean is, he's given some voice to those who, by the very nature of their cause, can't and won't be loud about it without appearing hypocritical.
Noise is a "weak" issue, Keizer says, because it affects mainly the weak. True, we can't all afford to build soundproofed rooms like one wealthy writer did, as described in the book. But I say it's a weak issue because people aren't clamoring to complain to officials and making it known that this is an issue they will vote on. People have to make a little noise to reduce it.
Keizer does a good job in describing the history of "noise" (as opposed to sound), and even touches a bit on how one person's noise is another person's pleasant sound when describing the "battle" between Sturgis bikers and Native Americans and with a few community members in Massachusetts versus the larger community's desire to hold a festival complete with music. I was glad to see that.
I appreciated the timeline of noise history, glossary, and list of organizations that do try to get noise reduced. He also gives a "personal noise code" which I felt was a little much. Suggestions for how to reduce noise are appreciated, but couching it in the guise of personal affirmations rubbed me the wrong way.
A thorough bibliography is included, and although the advanced reading copy didn't include one, the publisher assures us there will be an index.
I found this technologically unimaginative -- blimps! thirty days' vacation a year and travel as supercargo on the new sail freighters! quieter airplanes! -- but worse, fairly walrus-teary. He's quite good at the point that a lot of noise is a status display, but that makes me less comfortable with deciding to just make some more.
This book started out with several premises: that noise is a relatively 'weak' issue, not as important as water pollution, for example; that it has a disproportionate effect on the "weak" (marginalized people, small creatures, and simple pursuits); an finally, that this tendency to affect the weak is another reason for its status as a weak issue. Conventional wisdom (along with the World Health Organization) says that people begin to care about noise when they become more prosperous and better educated. No doubt that is true. But it is at least as true to say that governments begin to care about noise when it affects more prosperous and better-educated people.
The book's opening chapters tackle the difficulties of defining exactly what constitutes "noise" and the legal and political issues that make it tricky to regulate. The next section covers noise history--from early humans' survival instincts to the first crusaders against the racket of the industrial age to cell phone etiquette. Contemporary noise issues are well represented with a thoughtful discussion of European noise policy and the noise impacts of airplanes, highways and wind farms. The final section of the book examines potential solutions. Predictably, the author begins this section with a call for more cultural understanding (using American's ever-changing taste in popular music as an example) but then goes on to suggest solutions that recognize increasing population density and diversity, are based on alternative energy, focus on reducing consumption and question all previous assumptions that have brought the world to its current, unsustainable course. In the end, Keizer sums it up quite simply, "We must learn to live more quietly."
I would recommend this book for anyone interested in noise pollution with the caveat that I found it a slow, unengaging read at times. Although the individual topics are knitted together in interesting ways, there is little overall narrative flow and I rarely felt compelled to keep reading once I finished a chapter. Nonetheless, the extensive back matter (timeline of noise history, glossary, list of organizations that deal with noise issues, decibel scale, guidelines for public noise policymaking, and a personal noise code as well as extensive footnotes and bibliographic material) makes this a valuable reference for environmental and community activists.
There are several pages of notes the end of the book, adding substantially to its bulk. An electronic version or the paperback edition would probably be the more economical - and ecologically prudent - choice.