Sarah’s put up a thoughtful post regarding hearing voices when she reads. I can relate to this because, although my own inner ear parses text differently, I sympathize with the notion of those voices inside the book that tell me to do things.
Whole chapters of Ian McEwan, Alex Garland and David Peace have encouraged me to wash my hands more. Because when I’m reading a farrago of brisk one-to-two word sentences (“Fuck,” “Noon,” “My arse.”), I feel as if I’m channeling the spirit of Howard Hughes. If I’m, say, reading part of the Red Riding Quartet, chances are you’ll find me in the restroom, washing all of those evil smelly life-destroying molecules that CLUTTER one’s existence and otherwise INTERFERE with the precious bodily fluids have you ever seen a Russian drink anything other than vodka? that do me end and PREVENT me from living greatness, must keep the people happy and prevent the germs from spreading UP UP & AWAY flowing through my veins and arteries like some infernal beast, parasites that can only be seen under a microscope…
But I digress.
Conversely, when I am reading a paragraph-long sentence (a la badly translated Dostoevsky or W.G. Sebald), I suddenly find myself talking too much during a conversation. These austere paragraph-slingers wish me to expatiate and I must honor their wishes, for I too have something dreadfully important to say, so important that it must be framed within the context of a sentence with endless verbs, commas and wends that convey the Sense of Importance. Never mind that the people who listen are trapped there, wishing to be polite, hoping that the blathering fool who is recycling some heavy-handed Marxian metaphor will stop.
So, yeah, the short answer is that I hear voices too. And while I come from a family that is very musical, it takes me about an hour or two to sight-read a sheet of music. Largely because I have been too indolent to learn how to do it in real time (to use the technological parlance of our time) and because all I know how to play on my guitar are pentatonic scales and chords. O such a wasted existence! If only I had shown more initiative! If only I had known that more practice with an instrument would result in vaguely edible fruit!
But at least there’s karaoke to offer such a dubious surrogate. And at least there are the voices which assure me that reading is good and keep the deviant at bay so I can function in America’s troubling capitalistic system.