Whose voice?

The other day I was reflecting on how, unlike retinas and fingerprints, voices do often sound alike — that, indeed, there are probably only so many permutations of sound the human vocal chords can manage. As such, it is surely conceivable that not only could somebody pretend to be me, to raise or lower their pitch so as to imitate mine, there has to be someone (undoubtedly more than a few) who sounds exactly like me. I simply don’t know enough people actually to daily deal with this potential bit of confusion.

Similarly, the voices we inhabit in our writing are rarely our own. They are sometimes an immature aping of that of another, and sometimes even our genuine “voice” is indistinguishable from immature aping. By way of confession, for a long time, during my graduate school years, I was considered to be mimicking Mark C. Taylor. (I have since murdered all who made that observation, but am today comfortable enough in my own skin to mention it as an example. ) These days, I suppose the accusation might be that I am merely striving, and poorly at that, to write like William Gass. Though, mind you, I would be far more pleased to be mistook for John Hawkes or Katherine Anne Porter.

What about you? Whose “voice” do you inhabit or inhabits you — whether as a welcome guest or a demon eventually to be cast?


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