“The Hunger Games” Meet the Voices in My Head

I’ll admit it, I’m not exactly on the cutting edge of trends.

Take for example, the fact that “The Hunger Games” movie came out the other day, and I’m just starting to read the book.  Actually, I’ve been reading the book for a while, it’s just that between blogging and working and drinking, there isn’t too much awake time left for paperbacks of “The Lottery” meets “A Coalminer’s Daughter” meets “Futurama”.

I’m not a literary critic, so I’ll try to stop that.

When I started reading that book, I couldn’t help but notice that the words on the pages were echoing in my head in a British accent.  If I’m reading a P.D. James mystery or Thomas Hardy novel, the same thing happens.  I’m not sure if it’s due to my knowing  that the authors are from jolly old England, or if it’s because they write in a British style – I just know what the narrator’s voice in my head sounds like.  For the record, when I read the works of Stephen Hawking, the voice in my head takes on the automated sound of computer generated speech.  I know who wrote the piece, and it adds to my reading experience.  Besides, it adds an element of entertainment to the chore of reading the otherwise incomprehensible work of a mega-genius.

"I say, old boy, I believe my favourite smoking jacket is at the tailor's shoppe. Be a sport and toddle down to wardrobe and fetch me a new one, won't you? Also, I'm simply parched, would you mind bringing me a glass of port as well? Jolly good of you!"
(Image from kued.com)

As for the accents, it’s usually my voice, but a decidedly British version thereof.  If I close my eyes I can practically see the Brit version of  myself, sitting in a wing-back chair with a snifter of something brown on the table next to me with a doily beneath it.  There’s a tasteful lamp barely lighting the dark wood library behind me.  My pipe sits prominently in it’s holder next to the snifter.  My legs are crossed in the more feminine vertical fashion and I appear to be wearing some kind of Hugh Hefner/Don Draper smoking jacket.  I tilt my head slightly in an intellectual fashion and smile gently at the camera, revealing my crooked yellow teeth.  A dusty, leatherbound edition of “The Hunger Games” is open in my lap.  I regard the camera one last time, put on my trusty wire-rimmed reading glasses, look down to the pages and start reading.  You could practically smell the steak-and-kidney pie and scones baking in the nearby kitchen.

I needed to confirm my suspicions that the author of “The Hunger Games” Suzanne Collins, was originally from England, or had at least spent some serious time there.  I looked for a quick explanation, flipping my paperback over to find the usual all-about-the-author blurb.  You know how those go:

“R.I.P. Skippy – We Miss You!” is David Lovett’s 4th blockbuster novel.  He lives with his wife and several beloved pet iguanas in a small cabin in the Azores.  Born in Illinois and raised in the hard-scrabble streets of suburban New Jersey, he attended several American Universities earning degrees in fields which he eventually abandoned in favor of writing blockbuster novels.  Look for his next action packed novel “A Hangover Dissected” hitting shelves in Early 2013.

I was unable to find anything on the book cover and had to look online to find out whether Suzanne Collins came from Oxford-Hamptonshire or Hastings-On-Kent.  I was amazed to discover that she doesn’t appear to have a single tie to England whatsoever (She did work as a writer on the Nickleodeon show “Clarissa Explains It All” – which may or may not explain why she wrote a series of books about teenagers hunting and killing each other).

I was stumped.  The British voice in my head was still there.  Was it the bleak, Dickensian setting of “The Seam”?  Was it the weird names the characters had?  One’s named Katniss, one is Peeta – her bio says she’s adopted feral cats – are we surprised?  Anyway, back to the voice in my head.  I was having a hard time enjoying the book, because of reading each sentence multiple times.  The first time would be in a stiff, formal British Parliamentary kind of tone, the second would be more on the Cockney side (Eh Guv-nah?), then the third would be in my own glorious American accent.  By the time I’d read a given sentence three times, I’d have to go back and read it a fourth time because I was too busy affecting an accent to actually absorb the meaning of the words.  If you’ve read the book, you know these are not generally sentences which improve with multiple readings.

Luckily for me, lots and lots of people have read the book.  Even people who almost never read seem to have read all three of “The Hunger Games” books.  I began asking people who I work with whether they had had similar experiences with the whole British accent thing.  I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that not one person understood what the hell I was talking about.  Despite being rabid fans of the books, almost all of these people wanted to drop the topic of Katniss and company and talk instead about the voices in my head.  Many of them became convinced that I have some kind of paranoid schizophrenia and a few seemed a little frightened of what the voices might say to me.

“Is the voice in your head a man’s or a woman’s?”

“When the voices speak in accents, do they tell you to hurt yourself?”

“Does your dog ever tell you to do things?”

After a day or two of this, the voice in my head told me to stop asking people about the voices in their heads.  It went something like this: “I say old chum, it seems these blokes think you a bit daft.  I suspect you’d be better off not chatting them up about what I say to you.  Wouldn’t want them committing you to some sort of ‘looney bin’ as you Yanks like to say, what?  Now then, let’s not tarry, we’ve got rope and shovels to buy and a list to finish”

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6 thoughts on ““The Hunger Games” Meet the Voices in My Head

  1. I have been enjoying your discussion about the ability to conjure up voices that match characters and situations. in fact, it has been therapeutic, because when I told my friend that I read books in the voice of the character and not mine…he started playing the music to Psycho….

    I first noticed this when I was a kid and I read George Bernard Shaw’s, Pygmalion with a cockney as well as an upper class British accent. It occurred to me at that point that theater may be a direction to consider. (of course, I reasoned, that being a painter would be far more profitable.)

    The other therapeutic moment with “voices in your head” becoming just part of your daily babble occurred recently while watching, The Trip. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon mimic other actors all across the landscape of northern England while indulging in fantastic gourmet food. One is left wondering what these two would be like if they were not actively employed actors…?

    Face it, follow your family to the stage…!
    🙂

  2. When Pat would read stories to Chris, she would create a voice for every character!! I was amazed with this ability and often asked her how she kept so many people or characters in her head. Well, they were all there. Chris loved it and remains an avid reader.

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