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This is the voice I will use to read to you. It is loud, vaguely masculine, and ever so slightly punishing. Authors who read with this voice read like they have something very important to tell you, and it’s important you listen. I think it’s important you listen, but not because of anything I have to say but because of This Voice.

The 2013 Toyota Cressida handles like a dream, with anti-lock brakes, rack and pinion steering, and a bumper seat in the back for the kids. This is ad copy for the 2013 Toyota Cressida. Actually, that’s a lie. It’s not even ad copy but fake ad copy I made up. I don’t know if Toyota still makes Cressidas, or what a bumper seat is, or if kids like them. This fake ad copy is not important on so many levels, but it sounds important because I am reading it with This Voice.

You’ll notice a particular rhythm to This Voice. It highlights its accents, going up and down with the meter of the words, like a steamer on an ocean. The volume of This Voice is meant to get your attention, and its motion is meant to lull you into a trance-like state, getting you to believe everything it says. Most are bowled over by the force and intensity and underlying emphatic compassion of This Voice. If you’re not, I’m doing it wrong, and you’ll start to drift, your mind protesting against this affront to your time and patience. “Come on,” you’ll say to yourself. “Get to the point.” When in fact the point is This Voice.

But This Voice won’t let that happen. It is patient, empathetic. Jesus, just listen to it! Can you doubt the relevance of these words, its timbre, its tone? It’s got the whole package. So much so I wish I were in the audience myself, listening to This Voice go on and on about deep, important things, and I too would be bullied into a sort of compassion. It would make me feel at one with the reader, like he speaks for me against some vague but infinitely menacing foe, and I’d turn to my compatriot and say, “I love this guy.”

Here is the real reason why we listen to This Voice: we want to be punished and healed at the same time. We want to be destroyed and created, assaulted and forgiven. We want to be loved in both the Old and New Testament ways. This is what This Voice is giving you, a gift from both the father and the son. A smack applied simultaneously with its own soothing balm.

Maybe you’ll come up to This Voice after the reading and say, “That was a wonderful piece you read,” and This Voice will thank you, but really it will feel awkward about the whole thing. Did you really get the important message This Voice was trying to tell you? Then This Voice will go home because it won’t feel right just standing around, seemingly inviting compliments, and it will pull up a seat on its couch and read some history from some ancient, ruined era. This Voice will recognize our own blighted era in that history, and it will shake its head in wonder and despair. Will we ever learn?

This feeling will be so overwhelming This Voice will go to write down some of these thoughts, new thoughts, but vaguely like the the ones read aloud earlier that night. This Voice will start writing them down, not quite getting them right, and have to rest from the strain. Then it will get some cold chicken from the refrigerator and eat it without a plate. Then it will go to bed, world weary and beaten.

But the next morning it will wake with a new angle for the piece! The angle will be part thought, part dream, and will perfectly encapsulate what it was hoping to say the night before. This Voice will go to its desk and write frantically before it forgets everything, before the coffee is even brewed, and it will finish the whole thing by lunch. There will be a reading later that night at some bar where This Voice is on the bill. This Voice will never have been to this bar, and can’t be sure any of its friends will be there—even though they said they’d come—but it will want to go, to unleash This Voice again, to see if it finally breaks through.

The reading will be disorganized. The lady who set it up will have to work late, and no one will seem to know what’s going on until she arrives, bringing a sigh of relief. There will have been talk about reading from the back of the room, but someone will say, “Let’s read from on the bar,” like that’s fun. The lady will then volunteer This Voice to go first, as though this were predetermined. The bartender will bring a step ladder.

This Voice will be a little surprised by how high it feels on the bar, but it will know it’s not really that high, only feeling so. The ceiling fan will threaten. One wrong move and someone’s drink will topple over. The room will be silent. This Voice will take its piece from its pocket, all of a sudden worried it’s not done yet, that it rushed it, that it will fail to deliver the important message. But now it will be up there, people staring. This Voice will move closer to the mic, which will smell vaguely like the last person who spoks through it, take a deep breath and say: This is the voice I will use to read to you.

Art Edwards' novel Badge (2014) was a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association's literary contest. His writing has or will appear in The Writer and Salon, among many others. 




 


After listening to David Foster Wallace's THIS IS WATER on YouTube, I couldn't help but notice how much the piece benefits from Wallace's way of reading. I often read my work with the same kind of cadence. It works to convey an urgency and sincerity, but it's also ripe for parody.





 





  


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