Some say we should seek help upon hearing a voice in our heads. I say maybe we should chillax and start listening.
Most people experience a slightly depressing change in reading pace when they study at university. When reading goes from being a pastime to an obligation, when the devouring and absorption of every word – or not – can mean the difference between passing and failing an exam, it stands to reason that we hold our collective horses and slow the hell down a bit. Ruminating over the subtext that might lurk behind every adjective. Mouthing aloud key names and dates as we commit them to memory. Re-reading entire passages multiple times as we attempt to get our claggy, hungover, barely adult minds around vast new ideological concepts. It somewhat sucks the fun out of the whole spiel and is a habit that can be hard to shake even once the degree certificate is mounted above the fireplace, or gathering mouse droppings and turpentine fumes in a cardboard box in the garage.
Some folks manage to shake this ponderous habit and slip back into skim-reading as soon as the mortarboards hit the floor, but others aren’t so lucky. I am one of those others. It struck me at the weekend, a full five years after graduating, that not only do I still ruminate over words like a cow that has dined heartily on Astroturf, but I’ve developed a secondary coping mechanism to help chew through reams of prose: the voice of an inner audio book that resides somewhere behind my nasal cavity.
It’s not my own voice. Nor is it the voice of anyone I know. She (and it is 100% a she) is an enigma who reads aloud the text in front of my eyes with the received pronunciation of a 1970s BBC news anchor, a creeptastically faceless news anchor whose voice seeps through from a TV in the next room, muffled, muted, treble and mid-tones swallowed by the walls and carpet in between that leave behind only an indistinct rumble of comfortable bass. Though it does nothing for the speed, she sure makes the lexical cud a tad more digestible. In short, she’s a bit of a babe.
Rejoice! That most lonesome of artistic pursuits – reading – is lonesome no more. If only us socially incompetent bibliophiles had known this as kids, many an awkward conversation round the familial dinner table about why we never had friends round or frolicked on the climbing frame that Father had spent so many hours accruing splinters over would have been stopped in its tracks. For there is a friend waiting to talk to you 24/7. All you have to do is crack open some words on a page! And, it’s certainly less REDRUM than having an invisible friend taking up actual space in the room, and potentially a chair at the aforementioned table.
It does get pretty annoying when she starts reading me the numbers on the bus timetable, though. Because, invariably the 453 is twenty minutes away, not two, and whenever I get eggy with her for telling porkies she never pipes up to apologise. Good job friends are big on forgiveness.