I recently finished a book this morning that knocked me out for a bit, emotionally. I got an advanced reading copy of The Silent History by Eli Horowitz. It was originally written as in serialized form and published as/in an app, which then won a bunch of awards. You downloaded the app, and got a new chapter each week, plus there are many more stories that are only available when you reach a certain GPS location – even though I’ve finished the print version, I think I’ll purchase/download the app, for maybe a different experience. Read more about its concept/conception.
The story starts in 2011, when a bunch of kids are born without the ability to create or comprehend language – they can’t speak/think/understand/learn words. No one knows why, and each chapter is told from a different person’s point of view, as if it were a collection of interviews from a reporter compiling a history of the epidemic. Events unfold over the years – it ends around 2044 or something, and tells about how the ‘silents’ grow up, learn how to communicate with facial movements, try to survive on their own, get a tech cure, rebel against it, and how it all affects the people who love them/how they affect their loved ‘silent’. It’s really about loving each other, letting your kids be who they are – and wrestling with the fine line between trying to encourage them to grow and accepting them for exactly who they are. And really, doing the same for yourself.
I found it really powerful (even though I wondered at times why there weren’t more civil rights lawyers fighting on behalf of these people – somewhere, somehow, someone’s gonna sue the gov’t). And in reading it, reading for long stretches and not talking, you put the book down and realize there IS a calmness to silence. You look around and don’t really feel like talking any words. You just want to sit and feel, to look and understanding in a different way. It’s a nice meditation on communication, words and thoughts, emotions and love. As the author said in an interview:
Once you start thinking about it, the project is full of semi-comprehensible little resonances like that. I mean, it’s a lengthy book about the failures of language. It’s an oral history about people who can’t talk. It’s a digital book that is dependent upon engagement with the physical world.