Thanks, Davis Schneiderman, for inviting me here to participate. It seems your energy, enthusiasm and playfulness have pulled me along in your wake for a while now. How many times have we given readings together, yet I’m still out there in the audience cracking up when you perform? We also wrote a piece together about this new era of author do-it-yourself book promotion. Since I’m a guest here on Big Other, I’ll refer anyone who doesn’t know what’s going on back to your post to explain the game.
You know as well as anyone that book-promotion is one of my anti-talents. I suck at it. It’s almost like taking someone who has played a lot of flag football tournaments and putting her into a rugby game. I don’t know how to get the ball, but then when I suddenly have it, I don’t know what to do with it, and all too soon I’m underneath a big pile of other people.
What is the working title of the book?
The working title was Leave Her Alone, but the title became Something Wrong With Her. The book also has a subtitle (being a memoirish type of thing, they always seem to need one), but I’ve been having trouble having the subtitle come directly from my mouth (or fingers) to another’s ear (or eyes). I’m going to have to get past this (and my aversion is part of what the book’s about). But here’s the cover:
The Mimic’s Own Voice by Tom Williams
Main Street Rag, 97 pages, $9.95
This is a difficult book to write about because it’s so commandingly impressive. The writing is tight, expository, and emerges more from the school of “tell” than the school of “show.” I’m reminded most of Steven Milhauser’s story “Eisenheim the Illusionist” and novel Edwin Mullhouse. There is a narrator, but we are never sure who, or why, s/he is recounting the life and death of Williams’s protagonist, Douglas Myles, a mimic so good at replicating others’ voices he can even replicate voices he hasn’t heard — just by looking at the person. But how? How exactly does he do it? Questions like these seem the occasion for the academically toned narrative, which includes passages like:
Myles’s manuscript, housed now at The Pratt-Falls Center, Dr. Greene’s home institution, excited laymen and scholars at first, for all suspected it had been written for publication. Yet no contract exists among Myles’s papers (and, as the readers shall see, he was quite the saver), nor can one be found in the files of any publishers. This increased speculation that a bidding war for its rights would take place, though after the manuscript’s seventy-three handwritten pages were initially read, no offers, save for the Pratt-Falls’s were forthcoming. From its curious usage of second person, to its enigmatic opening and closing lines, ‘Your name is Douglas Myles. . . . They never really listened,” it does not divulge entirely his secrets, while it raises mysteries all its own. Still, there are a host of details which offer, for the first time, a definitive glimpse into his early life.