Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Talking Drum

The Drum is a new online literary magazine, distinguishing itself from other online collections of written works by having the authors read them in streaming audio. You also have the option of downloading the recordings as an mp3 so you can download it on your iPod. It doesn't cost any money to listen or download, primarily because The Drum doesn't pay the authors it selects to feature. In my case, that's OK because I'm happy with the exposure.

You can find me reading my flash fiction work "A Handful of Nickels" (which I originally titled "In the Nickel of Time" but somehow the other title made it to the website; I think I may have had a brain fart when I filled out my submission form) online now at http://www.drumlitmag.com. Just click on the link, scroll down a bit and there I am. Click "Play" to play or "Keep" to download.

While I'm excited to have been chosen to appear on the site, I also have two conflicting feelings about it. For one, I'm no fan of my recorded voice, though I used to play with tape recorders a lot when I was a kid, making up talk shows and singing dirty lyrics to songs taped from the radio with a friend of mine. I have this nasal thing going on and everyone always complains that I'm a mumbler anyway. But I tried my best when recording the piece to speak as clearly and emotively as possible.

Second, I'm not the biggest fan of author readings in the first place. To me, the great thing about reading a book with one's inner voice is that you don't know what is going to come next, and so the silent recitation in your head carries the tone of discovery. It's this constant word-by-word surprise that keeps one reading to learn how the sentence, paragraph, chapter, and story resolve.

But when an author reads his or her own work, he or she knows what comes next - knows, in fact, what will happen at the end of the story, and somehow that can't help but come across in the reading. Unless the author suffers from dementia or amnesia, he or she cannot regain the innocence required to replicate that sense that a first-time reader has of always discovering something new in the prose. No matter how skilled a public reader an author is, reading one's own work is an exercise in repetition rather than revelation.

Don't you wish sometimes you could go back and listen to "Stairway to Heaven" for the very first time again? Rediscover what made it such a magical and incredible experience? Instead, we listen to the song today having heard it at least 50,000 times before; we no longer are taken on the unexpected twists and turns because we know the terrain of that song so well. Which is not to say that it cannot be enjoyed - despite it being overplayed over the years, it still thrills me - but it never again can be an eye-opening experience. It's the satisfaction of a familiar flavor rather than the ecstasy of a profound new discovery.

All that said, as an aspiring author, I'm buying into the whole fantasy and dreaming of my first reading/book signing event. In retrospect, I suppose it's why I began practicing my autograph as early as sixth grade. I want to present my own work to a curious audience, field questions, and sign a perfect-bound page on which my name is printed as author. In time, I'm sure I would get over being self-conscious of my voice, and maybe would even be mindful of how I read my excerpt, and try to do so with as innocent and objective a tone as possible.

Until then, I plan to submit more pieces to The Drum and hopefully will have additional opportunities to practice my reading-aloud skills.

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