By David Lodge
304 pages; Viking
The title is just the first sly, sinister joke in David Lodge's Deaf Sentence (Viking), a darkly witty novel of missed signals and mixed messages. "Am I half in love with easeful deaf?" muses retired linguistics professor Desmond Bates, whose hearing impairment feeds his mortal anxiety and his self-defeating habit of reclusiveness ("a damper on every party, a dud at every dinner table"). Hounded by his exasperated wife, Fred, and seduced by sultry, dangerously deceptive graduate student Alex Loom, Desmond can be lethally deaf to reason. Reader, lend him your ears.