John Cotter was thirty years old when he first began to notice a ringing in his ears. Soon the ringing became a roar inside his head. Next came partial deafness, then dizziness and vertigo that rendered him unable to walk, work, sleep, or even communicate. What begins as an expedition across the country, navigating and battling the limits of the American healthcare system, quickly becomes a journey through hopelessness and adaptation to disability.
A compelling portrait of how deafness isolates people from even those closest to them ... More broadly, he also challenges us to better understand how any disability radically alters a person’s sense of self ... The most memorable sections in Losing Music recount Cotter’s daily struggles ... He’s lyrical about sounds we take for granted: wind rattling windows, old-fashioned radiators hissing to life, a cat drinking water. But he reserves his most passionate writing for music ... Writing that precise and moving helps us to grasp the full measure of the losses Cotter mourns.
In articulating what is now gone, Mr. Cotter vibrantly evokes the sensations of life before the great caesura that is the beginning of the end of his hearing ... The book unfolds like an orchestral work saturated in saudade, the Portuguese term with no equivalent in English that refers to the rich presence of absence—the way the vanished is resurrected inside the ache for its loss ... Losing Music is touched with disarming candor—sometimes mordant, other times self-lacerating ... More poignant is the breathtaking honesty about his own self-doubt, a condition that preceded his illness but is amplified to a silent scream by the arbitrary trial that is the loss of this critical link to the rest of humanity.