Tag Archives: researching deafness

throwing stones at the stars

My book is out of my hands for the next couple of weeks, being read by people whose opinions I admire. Let me tell you, that has been a nerve-wrecking (more wrecking than wracking) experience. The first round of feedback was the worst. It was almost unanimously positive, and I still wanted to vomit when I opened every email.

I’m pretty sure that much adrenaline is no good for the body. It certainly confuses it enough, and my poor body had no idea what to tell my brain about the state of my emotions. So it settled on “Wants to vomit”.

While I wait for feedback, I’ve been delving into two new activities:

1) writing a business plan. I find this impossibly, horribly confronting. Mostly because I’m the kind of perfectionist who always got top marks at school. My poor brain doesn’t know what to tell my body, because it can’t write something perfectly that it doesn’t know how to write. It mostly settles on, “Have irresistible urge to check twitter. Again.”

2) starting research for my next book. This is fun. Too much fun, actually. How do you put a time limit on research when history is so relentlessly fascinating?

As I read, I occasionally become conscious of the pompousness of telling history. I can’t help imagining reading in that same voice, “They were greatly consumed with ‘being connected’ and would spend hours every day on what was referred to as ‘social media’. By the early 21st century the laptop computer had become a common household item, and the average household had as many computers as people.”

It’s a sham, always, to try and tell the lives of people by the shrapnel they left behind. A delicious, fun sham, though, otherwise I wouldn’t do what I do.

I’m currently researching the history of deafness. I came across a transcription of the first deaf teacher of the deaf, Jean Massieu, being interviewed. The interviewees were often obsessed with abstract concepts – not being able to conceive, themselves, how a person “without language” would understand them.

It seems that once, when his mother was ill, he used to go out every evening and pray to a particular star, which he had selected for its beauty, entreating it to bring about her recovery. Finding that she became worse, however, he was enraged and threw stones at the star.

- Were you cursing the sky?

- Yes.

- Why?

- Because I thought that I could not get at it to give it a thrashing, to kill it for causing all those disasters and for not healing my sick relatives.

- Weren’t you afraid of provoking it and being punished?

- I didn’t know that it was merely the sky. It was only after a year of education that I was afraid of being punished by it.

From When the mind hears by Harlan Lane.