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Reading Out Loud/Aloud/Loudly

Matt Bell, writing a bit about his drafting process HERE, brought up that he reads out loud a lot when editing. I also do that. I don’t know of any essays that treat this aspect of editing in-depth. But Christine Schutt does talk about it HERE. An excerpt:

Beyond the charge delivered by reading great work is the experience of teaching it. How does a fiction mean? My own contention is that meaning is a product of structure and sound, and the best writers are alert to the ways in which language is manipulated. How a fiction is made involves the reader’s detection of the most manipulated sentence in an opening paragraph. Always there is one sentence that gives the story direction. Such a sentence is the story in miniature so that locating this sentence is the key to the room the reader is about to enter. As a writer, it means knowing which sentence will direct your own composition. An abstractly phrased desire, like this one, for wide experience, “I wanted proximity to darkness, strangeness,” falls in the middle of the opening paragraph to the Leonard Michaels story, “Murderers,” and it is this sentence that determines and describes all that happens from the boys’ experience of the primal scene to one boy’s death. Sex and death are the two darkest and strangest experiences of all. 

John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

7 thoughts on “Reading Out Loud/Aloud/Loudly

  1. Nice article. One sentence gives the story direction? Hmmm, I guess that’s a fair test. It would be great if she could go into this topic a little further. John, can you extend the invitation?

  2. I enjoy reading a text and recording it then playing it back while wearing headphones while watching my face in a mirror then rereading along with the sound of my reading the text.

    I do not do this with all of my writing, but it is a technique that causes a whole lot of psychological havoc and helps to bring out the depths of a piece. A downside is that it takes up a whole lot of energy.

    Reading to an audience of people who are bored and hungry as Christine Schutt remarks, sounds like an interesting technique.

  3. The process I found in something Miguel de Unamuno described, at least that is where I think that I found it. This was before I learned about Boroughs and his experiments. I have never been able to find the comment since. But I did spend about a year using that method intensively.

    The reason for looking in the mirror is not exactly that I am looking for something, it creates a feedback loop and you find things. You don’t need to go looking for them. Maybe they find you. In some sense it brings on a waking psychosis, not too different from say sleep deprivation with attendant hallucinations, or long bouts of sensory deprivation.

    Only, as it is text centered, and voice, and our own creation, it creates a whole more intense hallucinatory experience… one in which you begin to believe that you see ghosts and demons and angels and pixies and such and the narrative of stories takes on an hermeneutic aspect.

    It can really screw up your dream state, as well, lead to OOBE, and creates break downs between the conscious and subconscious. It is a good way to meet your doppelganger. It also helps if you are into trying to figure out how to move your hands around in your dreams… though that seems a bit of a trivial pursuit.

    I tend to only use it nowadays for short pieces that I want more depth of relationship with, and only when I have a good idea that I am not going to be needed to do anything rational for a few days.

  4. I do this, and have had it recommended to me by a number of writers. Andy Duncan says he does it 8 times before sending out any given piece.

  5. John:

    To start one needs to work from the context of a Jungian psychology, or at least suspend disbelief, otherwise it will sound like some sort of Carlos Castaneda BS.

    Within this contextual environment there is the animus an anima, manifestations that most people at one time or another experience consciously.

    Then there is the shadow self, the other self, the doppelganger that is elusive, something of a trickster.

    As to the methodology of using mirrors and recording and the feedback loop compare it to if you spend your daylight hours pouring over maps because your life depends on it (learning new taxi routes in a strange city) and when you fall asleep you dream maps. Hypnogogic. If in doing the feedback loop you have been watching what is yourself, but is not actually yourself but a reflection of light, a mirage of yourself, then it makes sense that you would dream of yourself, possibly even see yourself in your dreams. That is a visitation with your doppelganger.

    In the past I have done a lot of work with lucid dreaming. It has to do with an experiential interest in William Blake’s cosmology, as opposed to approach of a body of text from a superficial rationalization. I won’t go into that very much here, but the majority of interpretive reading of text, at least on a conscious level, is not from a perspective of the experiential. In my use here we are talking reading and writing from the unconscious, sometimes lucid, usually not very lucid at all.

    A technique in lucid dreaming is to look at your hands, usually you will see the back of them, and then to learn to turn them so that you can read your palms. Thus my poem Hands [Night Train – Poetry – Gabriel Orgrease http://bit.ly/6BJPZT%5D.

    My meeting with my doppelganger was for me, at least, memorable. It was in the yard of my childhood and there was a small open sided tent like one would find at a small carnival or church revival. He was dressed in a prim white and red suit with vertical stripes. He wore a flat topped hat with a wide brim, it was white. At first he was turned away from me, so that I saw him from behind. He turned around and we looked at each other eye to eye. He wore my face, least ways the face I know. He then ran off and darted behind a maple tree. I followed, not at a run, but walked. He would look out from behind the tree at me, then he would hide behind the tree. This went on for a few times and then it was over.

    I am sure that we have met on other occasions, he likes to wear disguises, but this one for me was the meeting that was obvious.

    If one, going back to my reference to William Blake, reads out from this sort of psychological context then it is interesting what you pick up in the work of various other authors.

    One of the laments that I have with the mainstream press, to add to everyone’s usual litany of complaints, is that this sort of textual experience is very far off their map. I rarely talk about this material with anyone as the tendency is for my sanity to be questioned and it is a whole lot easier to be quiet, enjoy my reading, enjoy the writing and move on.

    I thank you for asking.

    Best,
    GO

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