Saturday, March 9, 2019
JANE BROX'S NEW BOOK: SILENCE
Here's how this week's arts and culture piece begins:
Jane Brox has written, elegiacally, of growing up on her family’s Massachusetts apple farm in “Here and Nowhere Else,” “Five Thousand Days Like This One,” and “Clearing the Land.” Her nonfiction book on the evolution of artificial light is the aptly named “Brilliant.”
Her newest work — fitting for Lent — is called “Silence: A Social History of One of the Least Understood Elements of Our Lives.”
The first takeaway (perhaps unintended) is a new awareness of the hideous tortures imposed by humans upon other humans in the name of “correction.”
Brox opens with Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, established in 1829 as an experiment in prison rehabilitation. Each cell was essentially what we would today term a Special Housing Unit (SHU).
“[D]uring the period of their confinement, no one shall see or hear, or be seen or heard by any other human being,” ran a portion of the prison’s mission statement.
Brox goes on to compare this kind of punitive silence with the silence of the monastic cloister. And to her credit, she doesn't come entirely down on either side!
READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.