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The Train in the Night: A Story of Music and Loss [Hardcover]

Nick Coleman
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.99
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Book Description

2 Feb 2012

How do you lose music? Then having lost it, what do you do next? Nick Coleman found out the morning he woke up to a world changed forever by Sudden Neursosensory Hearing Loss.

The Train in the Night is an account of one man's struggle to recover from the loss of his greatest passion in life - and to go one step further than that: to restore his ability not only to hear but to think about and feel music.

Of all our relationships with art, the one we enjoy with music is the most complex, the most mysterious and, for reasons that cannot be explained by science alone, the most emotionally charged. Nothing about that relationship is simple. And yet it is perhaps through music that we make the most intimate contact with our sense of who we really are, at our most naked, unsophisticated, honest, and simplified. Through psalms, symphonies, love songs, ballads, boogie...

Where to start, though, for the newly deaf? Well, you can start, suggested a famous neurologist, by trying to remember every beautiful piece of music you've ever heard and then by thinking about that music over and over again until it begins to assume a new kind of form in your brain. You never know what might happen after that. And so that's what the author did. He went back to the origins of his passion - the series of big bangs which kicked off his musical universe - and then worked his way forwards through the back catalogue.

The Train in the Night is a memoir not quite like any other. It is about growing up, obviously. But it is also about becoming young again and trying to see the world for what it is, whether through the eyes of a teenage punk or those of a middle-aged music critic and father of two. It is about taste and love and suffering and delusion. It is about longing to be Keith Richards. It is funny, heartbreaking and, above all, true.

It is a hymn to music.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape (2 Feb 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224093576
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224093576
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 389,092 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A deft and heartfelt exploration of music, silence, adolescence, English pop and the emotional consequences of serious illness, and above all a discussion of something modern culture has very nearly lost touch with - the idea, and the desirability, of taste. (D. J. Taylor)

If The Train in the Night went no further than the list of life-changing music that drops in at the end, like an index, it would be just another retread of High Fidelity, but Nick Hornby's book is a boy's train-set in comparison to this. Coleman does nothing less than stage a noble rescue of that gauzy 18th-century girl, Taste. He explains better than anyone I've read the difference between liking certain music and being "into" it. (Brian Morton Independent)

His memoir...intercuts vivid biographical snapshots with the narrative of what he calls his 'calamity' in a story told with warmth, wit, candour and dry, self-deprecating humour and without a whiff of self-pity... Coleman is insightful and convincing in his musings on music's emotional impact, funny on his recollections of the pains of growing up and sharp in his analysis of the thorny issue of musical 'taste'. (Time Out)

It is often moving, and sad; because Coleman is a spirited person, who writes with an irrepressible Hornby-esque skip in his style, it is also often funny and admirable. (Andrew Motion Guardian)

Music journalism thrives on a rapid turnover - of talent, trends, writers even - so an opportunity to contemplate a lifetime in music's thrall is understandably irresistible. (Steve Jelbert Independent on Sunday)

Book Description

An account of one man's struggle to recover from the loss of his greatest passion in life - and a hymn to music.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A big help to me 21 April 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I lost fifty per cent of my hearing three years ago, after having inflenza, and I am only 42 years old. The hardest thing for me to accept was how I thought I could never listen to music again, due to the massive distortion. I am a huge music lover, so it broke my heart when I could not even recognise favourite songs. I am still learning how to adjust how and what I can listen to.
This book was a huge comfort to me, as none of my friends, family, or even the professionals, understood how tremendously difficult this last three years have been for me.
I wish to give a huge thanks to the author, as I no longer feel alone.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loss of any Sense is Devastating. 13 Feb 2012
By ACB (swansea) TOP 50 REVIEWER
This is a most thought-provoking account of a person,a professional, who relies on a basic sense plus an artistic appreciation of what he interprets before he puts it into perpetual ink. What happens when this is blown? Compensation may help in general but as a dedicated critic, the mind changes are incomprehensible. Nick Coleman expertly deals with his own 'horrors' that he has to face. The frustration can only be understood in the narrative. There are many more out there who have never had an impairment of one of the vital senses. It is an old conundrum as to which sense is most or least important,usually discussed by the clear-headedness of the intact. This is very personal to Nick Coleman's story. His professional loves, skilled writing are fortunately backed by his family with a clearly wonderful wife. His readings of the passion of music he has minced in his mind and their repurcussions are an inspiration. His story is not without humour or hope. Listening and articulating about music is a gift and a pleasure. The world has millions of sufferers. Few get the chance to summarise their problems. Nick explains the effect on his life. No sympathy requested: get on with it as best. Many are born or have acquired disabilities. This ,hopefully,addresses their difficulties and reinforces the help required in amenities etc. As a medical doctor with a psychology degree and first hand family problems of this disorder, I can only recommend this in the highest terms.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
How anyone can give this book 3 or 4 stars, I've no idea. Have they ever tried writing a book themselves? It should get 5 stars on prose style alone. Just on being grammarly.
But if I was being wholly subjective, I'd give it ..... 5 stars.
Because I, too was born in 1960 and so underwent a parallel process in terms of discovering Stevie Wonder was God at a certain age.(Younger than him, but then girls are more mature.)
And I, too, suffer from deafness in one ear. I had already given thanks that I don't have tinnitus before I read his scrapyard description of it and his longing for silence.
And I, too, set up my hi-fi before anything else when I move house and know to the last detail every middle 8 + harmonies that the Beatles, Kirsty MaColl and Kate and Anna McGarrigle ever created.
So if you're into music, this is the book for you. Nick Coleman has managed to communicate the impact of particular bits of music as no one ever has (and believe me, I've tried.) He does it by recreating the context (hormones, dullness of postwar, smalltime homelife, me-generation aspiration) in which it hit him, so we get a great deal more than technical know how, which never works. If you are over 40, there will be something here for you to relate to and if you're under, just listen and learn.
Also, going deaf has made the guy think about aural perception as never before, which is (obviously) very interesting and deeply connected to the question, What is Reality Anyway? Hospital incompetence deeply amusing (sorry, Nick). Death of Father deeply upsetting. (I cried) and all I can say is, thanks Nick Coleman and very best wishes to you, Jane and the kids. (I'd add one of those smiley things but can't see one here.)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A life in music, disrupted by deafness 28 Dec 2012
By Charlie
This is beautifully written, and very thoughtfully organised, as Coleman shifts between an account of the development of the deafness and disorientation which stripped him of access to the music that he loved, and a retrospective account of the part music had played in his life as a young man: it's a very crafty way of writing a kind of autobiography, and a lot of the pleasure of the book lies in anecdotal recollections of, say, a teenager's terror of buying uncool LPs from the kind of people who run record stalls in markets. As you'd expect from a veteran of both The Independent and the NME, Coleman writes with incredible poise about the ways in which particular tracks work on the ear - the precision of his analysis probably draws, in part, on his training as a chorister, so one of the unexpected pleasures of the book is the juxtaposition of learned disquisitions on Yes albums with equally passionate accounts of various pieces of sacred music. One of the best and most enjoyable books I've read this year.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb 22 Feb 2012
Nick Coleman used to write for Time Out (perhaps he still does?) and I always used to like his stuff. He can write - he is pithy and poetic - and he always seemed to me to have the same sort of flair as a writer like Greil Marcus. He writes superbly, here, about music and being a music fan and the description of his deafness and of the ways he can and can't cope is so vivid that, in places, it's almost unreadable. (It's the first time, too, that I've ever been visibly moved by a list.) This may well be the best book that I have ever read about being a fan of music. I highly recommend it and have, indeed, already recommended it on Facebook and Twitter. (It's a measure of how much I like it that this is the first Amazon review that I have ever written.)
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars SSHL...
It took me a while to pluck up the courage to read this book as I experienced the same loss as Nick in 2009, mine is also permanent. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Iain Summers
4.0 out of 5 stars Hippie heaven
I found this book interesting because I am 2 years older than Nick and so the descriptions of
being a music crazed teenager in the 1970s had a particular resonance for... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Miss S. P. Wells
4.0 out of 5 stars An unusual biography
A well written Book.

Reminded me of my own youth with endless arguments and listening and leaning about music.

Published 9 months ago by Richard
4.0 out of 5 stars A very sensitive and sensual read so far ...
Cover 2.0 ... not sure what all the cover imagery is about. I have a great interest in the views and reactions of people who have lost key senses whether hearing sight taste or... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Alexander Kreator
3.0 out of 5 stars Not an easy read
It seems to me you need to be of a similar age to the author, to know and recognise the music of his youth, to really get something out of this book. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Vivien Wring
4.0 out of 5 stars Extremely interesting angle, but poorly proof read
This book comes at hearing loss from an entirely new angle, which I really enjoyed despite knowing little about the music genres Nick Coleman prefers. Read more
Published on 25 Mar 2012 by Dr. W. E. J. Leverton
3.0 out of 5 stars Too little of the hearing loss, too much of teen angst
I came to this book fascinated by Coleman's radio interview & an earlier piece (in the Telegraph perhaps? Read more
Published on 25 Feb 2012 by D. Wyatt
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book
I found this book engrossing, moving and entertaining. Nick Coleman is primarily a music journalist and a man for whom music of all kinds has been central to his life. Read more
Published on 9 Feb 2012 by Sid Nuncius
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