Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Narrative Voice

1.It has begun asking you questions even before you knew it was there. causing you to think at first that it was some parental trick, some way they had of keeping track of you.

2. Then you began to take it for granted as something apart from them, apart from everyone.

3. And then it had a shape that grew more familiar with time until you knew it was somehow hooked up to you.

4. There were long periods when you did not listen to it at all, thinking it somehow lacked the smoothness and authority of the sounds you heard when you read.

5. But after a time of reading, you began listening again, being drawn to those who had things you wanted to pursue in yourself.

6. After a long period of trying to imitate the voices you liked, it became increasingly clear: You did not have to imitate. All you had to do was listen.

7. You come into the world seemingly without it until it gradually forms within you and at some stage, it gives you to understand that it is the only thing you will carry with you out of the world.

8. With it, you will be narrating yourself out of this world, with some luck leaving it behind you to tell the stories you began and got a handle on.

9. If this happens, people will wonder about you, what you were like, possibly even how you lived, what you were like to hang out with.

10. It is the way you sound, the way you feel, the way you think, speaking to you in the intimacy of language you have forged oer the long years, the years of trying and frustration, the years in which you did not yet know who you were and thus were trying to sound like a combination of people you admired.

11. Don't forget that you were also trying not to sound like people you didn't like. You still, for instance, think Tom Wolfe sounds constipated and you got in a big argument just last year with an editor who sent you a journal with critical reviews of Wolfe's work.

12. Keep talking, but listen to the things about your talk you don't like.

13. Don't be afraid to dislike someone everyone else likes.

14. Don't be afraid to like Emily Dickinson, even though some gasbag wrote an essay saying she must have been a Buddhist and she must have achieved Satori.

15. If you don't like the way you sound, find ways to fix it until you do like the result because this is you the voice is talking about.

16.Talk the way you write; write the way you talk.

17. You have to know how these aspects of you sound before you can be other individuals.

18. It is not schizophrenia when you do this any more than it is schizophrenia when a flutist switches from say B flat to G sharp.

19. The narrative voice is your instrument.

20. The narrative voice is you.


R.L. Bourges said...

8. "narrating yourself out of this world" - you've been eavesdropping again, Sir. Or I've been eavesdropping - who knows? That's exactly what I told myself about myself a few hours ago.
10. When I discovered Dostoyevsky at the ripe old age of 13, I went around Dostoryevskying the world around me. When I fell into Balzac a year later, I had a running commentary in my head, describing downtown Montréal to Honoré. Have I stopped doing this? Oh no. Every time an author appeals, the inner dialogue starts up all over again.
11. Never read Tom Wolfe. Now I have to check, of course.
12. Many, many things I don't like about my own. But have decided to keep talking anyway.
13. absolutely. Or you'll end up listening to Wagner all your life, when you really want to be listening to Bach and Vivaldi and Santana and John Mayall and...
14. Poor sweet Emily. I love her dearly but I do wish she'd had a bit more fun on her road to Enlightenment.
15. Broadcasting from Me Myself and I - 24/7; all of us.
16. This I'm still learning. Which makes for some bad squawking at times.
20. Which is why some voices appeal and some don't, I suppose. (And keep on appealing even when we don't like a particular song or a specific poem or story.)

Lori Witzel said...

Re: #14 -- "...some gasbag..." *snork*

I've been reading Evan Hunter/Ed McBain's Fat Ollie's Book -- talk about voice(s)! I keep stopping, grinning, wanting to jump up and down with glee at some of what and how he wries about Ollie and Ollie's process and experience as writer.

x said...

This is so beautiful my narrative voice is speechless.