Thursday, July 14, 2005

Atwood's "Voice".

I have just been sitting here sipping a coffee after work, and reading the latest Walrus magazine. Walrus is my favorite magazine. It is published ten times a year, out of Toronto, and has a real Canadian-y slant to it. It covers world events / arts and culture, has in-depth profiles, investigative journalism, fictional pieces, poetry, reviews.... and it is very attractively put together. You can see it (and subscribe) at
On page 79 of the new July/August issue there is a wonderful short piece by Margaret Atwood, who (as you probably already know by now) is my favorite female writer in the world.
In light of yesterday’s thoughts about my own nightmare and stuff, I found her words to be very timely. In all seriousness, this vignette of hers is so well-done and artful that I shall not taint it by commenting upon my interpretation of it.
I have heard Margaret Atwood speak and have spoken with her briefly myself. During that time, I admit that I felt a bit like “falling on my knees” before her “voice” (as she wittily suggests men are prone to do). She very graciously submitted to my convoluted request that she sign a first edition of her Surfacing in a rather specific way....
At any rate, this vignette of hers is obviously not about her actual voice... however, it is worth mentioning that rarely have I heard a voice as entrancing, as captivating, and I might add.... unique, as the voice of Margaret Atwood. When she speaks there is such a gentleness and surety. There is a nasally tone that is not due to congestion. Nor is it irritating to the listener, as most nasally tones can be. Her every sentence is filled to the brim with such profundity and well-reasoned wisdom, that a listener like myself is left wondering how such a weighty torrent issued forth from such a demure aperture.
This is the voice of Margaret Atwood.

by Margaret Atwood

I was given a voice. That’s what people said about me. I cultivated my voice, because it would be a shame to waste such a gift. I pictured this voice as a hothouse plant, something luxuriant, with glossy foliage and the word tuberous in the name, and a musky scent at night. I made sure the voice was provided with the right temperature, the right degree of humidity, the right ambience. I soothed its fears; I told it not to tremble. I nurtured it, I trained it, I watched it climb up inside my neck like a vine.
The voice bloomed. People said I had grown into my voice. Soon I was sought after, or rather my voice was. We went everywhere together. What people saw was me, what I saw was my voice, ballooning out in front of me like the translucent greenish membrane of a frog in full trill.
My voice was courted. Banquets were thrown to it. Money was bestowed on it. Men fell on their knees before it. Applause flew around it like flocks of red birds.
Invitations to perform cascaded over us. All the best places wanted us, and all at once, for, as people said – though not to me – my voice would thrive only for a certain term. Then, as voices do, it would begin to shrivel. Finally it would drop off, and I would be left alone, denuded – a dead shrub, a footnote.
It’s begun to happen, the shrivelling. Only I have noticed it so far. There’s the barest pucker in my voice, the barest wrinkle. Fear has entered me, a needleful of ether, constricting what in someone else would be my heart.
Now it’s evening; the neon lights come on, excitement quickens in the streets. We sit in this hotel room, my voice and I; or rather in this hotel suite, because it’s still nothing but the best for us. We’re gathering our strength together. How much of my life do I have left? Leftover, that is: my voice has used up most of it. I’ve given it all my love, but it’s only a voice, it can never love me in return.
Although it’s begun to decay, my voice is still as greedy as ever. Greedier: it wants more, more and more, more of everything it’s had so far. It won’t let go of me easily.
Soon it will be time for us to go out. We’ll attend a luminous occasion, the two of us, chained together as always. I’ll put on its favorite dress, its favorite necklace. I’ll wind a fur around it, to protect it from the drafts. Then we’ll descend to the foyer, glittering like ice, my voice attached like an invisible vampire to my throat.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Am I to believe that Ms Atwood is a Canadian whose voice does not betray a heavy Canadian accent?
Can there be such a creature in all of Canada?

Enjoyed her passage on the writer's voice.

I would say that yours has been taking on a life of its own, eh?
Better keep a close watch on it. Next thing you know it will be telling you what to. . . wear . . . when you are checking your fan e-mail in the morning.

Enjoyable reading, as always, Cipriano, from the "most consistently interesting blogsite on the internet!"
I didn't say that! It was your VOICE. Better scour this site for random covert activities. . .

Just another of your devoted fans...