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Doug's Reading Corner

The Voice You Hear When You Read Silently


is not silent, it is a speaking-

out-loud voice in your head;  it is *spoken*,

a voice is *saying* it

as you read.  It's the writer's words,

of course, in a literary sense

his or her "voice" but the sound

of that voice is the sound of *your* voice.

Not the sound your friends know

or the sound of a tape played back

but your voice

caught in the dark cathedral

of your skull, your voice heard

by an internal ear informed by internal abstracts

and what you know by feeling,

having felt.  It is your voice

saying, for example, the word "barn"

that the writer wrote

but the "barn" you say

 is a barn you know or knew.  The voice

 in your head, speaking as you read,

 never says anything neutrally- some people

 hated the barn they knew,

 some people love the barn they know

 so you hear the word loaded

 and a sensory constellation

 is lit:  horse-gnawed stalls,

 hayloft, black heat tape wrapping

a water pipe, a slippery

spilled *chirr* of oats from a split sack,

the bony, filthy haunches of cows...

And "barn" is only a noun- no verb

or subject has entered into the sentence yet!

The voice you hear when you read to yourself

is the clearest voice:  you speak it

speaking to you.

    -Thomas Lux [taken from The New Yorker, July 14, 1997, p. 77]


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