Signing copies of my new novel, Underneath, for a couple of acquaintances recently, I was interested (especially given my recent post on the unconscious and hallucinations) when both said they heard a voice when reading a novel to themselves. Because they know me, and I have a distinctive voice (and not necessarily in a good way), I wondered if they thought they’d hear my voice when reading my novel (even if it is narrated by a man), as has been reported before (I didn’t ask just because I’m a narcissist). But no, one said she hears her own voice, the other a voice specific to the story she’s reading. I wonder what that’s all about.
My Australian friend, and stalwart supporter of this and many other blogs, Norah Colvin, tends to “read” audiobooks, and has often remarked that the reader makes a big difference to her enjoyment of the book. I wonder what becomes of the voice that some hear when reading when listening to a story: does the external cancel out the internal or do the two interact?
In preparing a piece of work for publication, authors are advised to read our words aloud. I’m not sure what makes this form of giving voice so powerful, but it’s remarkable how well the ear can pick out glitches not noticed by the eyes scouring page or screen.
With the author’s connection to the voice of her story likely to be particularly strong, what’s it like to hear it read by someone else? Neither of my novels being (yet) available in audio format (although a recent blog discussion suggests I ought to try and get my head around Audible), I haven’t had this experience with the long form, but a couple of e-zine publishers have pursued this with my short stories. The first time, a few years ago, although the reader spoke clearly, his rhythms were totally alien to what I thought were mine, as if he were trying to waltz while I was doing the tango. I now think I might have been too precious as, rather than leaving listeners to judge for themselves, this story never reached the public’s ears.
I hope to return to the topic of “reading voice” if and when my thoughts are more coherent. Meanwhile, here’s the chance to catch up on all of June’s reviews by clicking on the image. Consistent with the tourism theme of two of this month’s novels, another two on migration, as well as a post on travelling and homecoming, my reading has taken me beyond the UK to Germany, the Middle East, USA, Australia, Germany, Italy, Mexico and Ireland – just the way I like it: without leaving the house.