Out of Silence into Sound Critical Context
by Roger Burlingame

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Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Out of Silence into Sound would fit better into a science, history, or social studies class than into a literature class. The numerous anecdotes hold the interest of young adult readers, but the frequent excursions into social history mar the flow of the narrative. Burlingame’s admiration for AT&T, and his too-detailed descriptions of its tribulations and triumphs, indicates his capitalistic bent and respect for patent rights but also occasionally resembles a series of commercials for the Bell System.

Despite the excellent illustrations and clear descriptions of scientific terms and processes, Burlingame’s attitude toward his topic is extremely subjective. Even chapter titles—“New Inventions and New Battles,” “Happy Old Age,” and “Fishing in Waters of the Unknown”—reveal Burlingame’s hero worship, a near fairy-tale ambience, and a good-guys-versus-bad-guys mind-set: Scientists, boldly arrayed against patent pirates and other scofflaws, invariably triumph. While it contains a verifiable happy ending, this biography does not represent the typical inventor’s life and experiences, nor does it sufficiently detail the grueling work that accompanies any successful invention. It does, however, prove that one can fight bureaucracy and win.