Christine Hume


When I read, I hear an internal version of my voice sounding the words. When I write, it’s another voice I hear, one I apparently cannot launch into the audible world. When I read aloud, my voice is no longer mine. It makes an orphan of me. It makes me into an impersonator. An actor plays the part of a writer and I ventriloquize. I try at least to relay the rhythm of it, but I stutter and blurt, tongue-trip; I rock or tic. I am expressing time with my body, then; I am expressing the struggle of writing, but not the writing itself. To say I read my work aloud means an exhibition, a show of nakedness, a show of hiding in fits. My body blasts through my voice, I dissolve in a tremor. Voice’s first condition is trembling, an oscillation between body and no-body, like a dialectical act that cannot complete itself. Mine continues thrashing around, growing ever more anxious by its perceived proximity to the utopian.

The public sound of my writing—my voice attempting to read what I have written—always fails to reproduce the private sound of it, but perhaps these voices should be strangers. Doesn’t everyone hear voices in their heads? My voice holds audible ghosts of people I’ve known, reimagined, misremembered, and hybridized, voices heard without being physically spoken. By shutting up, I most fully access my voice’s polyphony. My mother’s voice left an impression and became biologically fused to my unconscious chatter, a phantom voice. I absorbed my mother’s dialogues as if they were my own. Through her voice, I learned language at the same time I learned to think. I learned to listen. Some say that schizophrenic’s experience of hearing voices is the failure to recognize internal voices as one’s own (or as a blend of childhood voices). If you misattribute your inner voice to be a stranger’s, you are a voice hearer; perhaps if you misattribute your external voice to be a stranger’s, you are a writer.

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