on 21 April 2012
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.
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.
on 26 January 2013
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.)
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. A few years ago he suddenly lost the hearing in one ear which also had devastating effects on his balance and on his whole inner world whenever he moved or was subjected to sounds of any kind - including music which became physically painful to listen to. The Train In The Night is his account of this experience, interwoven with the story of the birth of his love of music as a child and teenager in Cambridgeshire.
Part of my interest in this book is due to my having suffered exactly the same failure of the inner ear. I know that this may bias me toward the book, but it would also make me very critical if I thought it badly done. In fact it is exceptionally well done. It is phenomenally difficult to convey the experience because it is so subjective, but Coleman does it extremely well. He describes the physical effects very vividly, but also manages to portray the terrible but intangible loss of so much of what makes music so special to us and conveys a sense of having been inside and a living part of it and now being reduced to the equivalent of looking at a flat line-drawing of a magnificent building. I found both this and the difficult, partial struggle back very poignant, as was the phenomenal degree of support and strength shown by Coleman's wife Jane, who emerges as a quiet heroine from the narrative.
I also loved the youthful music bits. Coleman is (as one might expect from a music journalist) insightful and eloquent about all sorts of music, and about the prejudices and little hypocrisies we bring to it. Examples include both a terrific description of what makes Marvin Gaye's I Heard It Through The Grapevine so brilliant and a thoughtful and touching passage on Christmas carols.
The prose is very readable and there is a great deal of insight, honesty and wisdom in this book. It has a great deal to say about the importance of music and how we respond to it, and more generally about how people respond to crises of their own and of those they love. Very warmly recommended.
on 28 December 2012
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.
on 22 February 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.)
on 9 June 2015
This is such a beautiful and thought-provoking book. It made me think of my own teenage years in an utterly different way - charting it through the music I listened to, a lot of which I had forgotten. If you grew up in the Seventies you cannot fail to be enchanted. It's also an extraordinary account of devastating hearing loss - honest, uncompromising, disturbing at times, but ultimately uplifting and inspiring. Read it.
on 6 January 2016
Nick, this is a great book, all the more so for the era and area you have recreated (we were at school together ... both migrants from the land of purple and black to the land of green). You tell your own personal story very movingly, and obviously lived it even more movingly. I really like the ending. Wishing you well and happy.
on 25 April 2014
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.
Eventually, I bought the book but still held off reading until finally manning up and starting it over Easter.
I'm not quite finished, it has been hard going, but up to now this book has made me mad, made me sad, made me laugh out loud and made me shake my head in recognition at the huffy reactions of doctors without a diagnosis and the feelings of hopelessness and fear. Along with the crushing doubts and, it has to be said, self pity.
Music was my life too and I was bereft when it was spirited away one night. After a couple of frustrating years, my "cure" was to go and see as much live music as I could. Cramming positive sound energy into the noisy, tinnitusy, full/empty space in my head. It sort of worked for me. At the moment I'm listening to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in mono and it sounds kind of OK.
This is not a great read, it's too personal for that, but it is an uncomfortable, accurate, authentic and very important one.
on 25 February 2012
I came to this book fascinated by Coleman's radio interview & an earlier piece (in the Telegraph perhaps?) about his loss; and I wanted to understand how he dealt with it & recovered some of his ability to listen to & criticise music. That's all in there. But it's only about 25% of the book - maybe less. I daren't disagree with Sid Nuncius whose reviews are always valuable & to the point; Coleman's descriptions of his loss & its physical effects, of the pain of hearing music, and (eventually) of hearing it again in a new way, are indeed moving & fascinating.
But let's be frank. 75% of this book is the autobiography of a lad in Cambridge with nothing much to tell us about 'the human condition'. Yes, music was vital to him, and (in the other 25%) he grapples with how & why - p244-9 are very good on this. But the premiss of the book was that, one doctor suggested, really striving to recall the memory of music that really affected him emotionally might help his brain to adjust & the music to become pleasurable again. But it's not till between p268 & 274 that he finally squares up to the question: how did you go from not being able to hear music, to being able to cope with it & write about it & so on, again?
And the answer to that question only tangentially touches the other 75% of the book. He does not link ANY of the 'key moments' he reflects on in his voyage through the 1970s with ANY improvement in his condition - until p268, and then he's not in the past he's in the present. So there goes the main point of the book.
As he asks to re-visit an old flame, he tells her "I'm writing a book about Cambridge in the 1970s". Yes, precisely. I could moan about other things: he ties himself in knots trying to both argue for having 'taste' & at the same time dismiss it as an unlikeable priggishness - to be different from & yet the
same as 'the common man' at the same time, or (bluntly) to have his cake & eat it.
In the end the question is whether you can be bothered to plough through the 75% which doesn't really deal with the loss of hearing, to find the bits that matter. Those bits are definitely worth reading; but overall only 3 stars.