True Voices: Writerly and Readerly Persons

One of my daughters just finished reading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. She’s the daughter who’s so aware of the Myers Briggs Personality Types. If you’ve read the novel yourself, then you know how the author writes each different chapter from each of the main characters point of view, in each character’s voice. My daughter is having fun discerning the personality types of each character just by listening to each voice.

My wife is also reading the novel. She’s a preacher’s kid and identifies, as a daughter, with the main characters in the book, all of whom are daughters, each telling the story, their stories, chapter by chapter. One of these “daughters” also happens to be the mother of the four daughters in the family in the novel; this mother is also the wife of the man who is the father of the four girls. Kingsolver never actually writes even one word from the father’s point of view (no chapter from his perspective) but you can hear his voice. She, the one author, is brilliant in being able to write so many voices. This is her voice, you know. If you read her novel, then you hear how brilliant she is. How she gets us listening!

When I read the novel, I hear my own father’s voice. He’s also a missionary, like the father in the novel is. My wife asks me what my mother would hear if she read the book. I say, “sadness.” Here’s a picture of what that looks like. It’s a picture of my family, of my father and mother and my siblings when we were in the first days of their missionary work:

In case you’re wondering, my father’s hand is on me in the picture. I find some personal significance in that. My father has changed much, but he’ll always be the same man to me. His voice is not as strong as it used to be; but it’s still the very same voice. I talked with him just hours ago by telephone. And he and I talked yesterday more by email.

I’m interested in how we listeners and readers know a voice.

I’ve blogged at four different blogs, saying many different things. If you judge me by what words I’ve typed, then maybe you can judge my personality type. Who or what do you think I am? And when you write, who or what do you imagine I’ll think you are?

Here’s what http://www.typealyzer.com/ says about my personality, and my writer voice. They are different, aren’t they? And yet, you’re right, this is still me. I’m changing but I’m always the same. See:

At my blog, Aristotle’s Feminist Subject, here I am:

The analysis indicates that the author of http://speakeristic.blogspot.com/ is of the type:

ESTP – The Doers

The active and playful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.

The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.

At my blog, The WOMBman’s Bible, here I am:

The analysis indicates that the author of http://wombmansbible.blogspot.com/ is of the type:

INTP – The Thinkers

The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

At my Bits of bibles blog, where I quote in my own translating, the Masoretes, and the seventy Hebraic translators of Hellene, and Julia Smith, and Lancelot Brenton, and Moses, and Moses’s Egyptian mother, and God, here I am:

The analysis indicates that the author of http://bitsofbibles.blogspot.com/ is of the type:

INFP – The Idealists

The meaning-seeking and unconventional type. They are especially attuned to making sure their beliefs and actions are congruent. They often develop a passion for the arts or unusual forms of self-expression.

They enjoy work that are aligned to their deeply felt values and tend to strongly dislike the more practical and mundane forms of tasks. They can enjoy working alone for long periods of time and are happiest when they can immerse themselves in personally meaningful projects.

At at this very blog (whether the wordpress version or the blogspot version), at Mind Your Language, here I am again:

The analysis indicates that the author of http://nevermindthetagmemics.blogspot.com/ is of the type:

INTP – The Thinkers

The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

As a matter of fact, ever since my mother gave birth to me, ever since my voice was first ever heard, I have this personality and this voice. Every time I give the truest responses to Myers Briggs Type Indicator tests, then the result is invariably INTP (“the thinker”).

But what I’m trying to make such a big deal about is how you use language, even my language, to know me and to know my voice. I don’t think I’ve ever really showed you my picture when blogging. But you’ve always pictured me.

(And just in these parentheses, I’ll add, that when I blog as “J. K. Gayle” most of you hear me, first anyway, as a woman. Blame it on Aristotle’s “Feminist” Subject or on the woman writer “J. K. Rowling” or on the fact that my family name is a woman’s name. But when you hear me writing with different voices, when you hear me sounding when writing like I have a certain personality, when you listen to me as a woman, then Is that me doing that, or you?)

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3 responses to “True Voices: Writerly and Readerly Persons

  1. Yes! It is you doing that – consciously or unconsciously, and usually a bit of both – writers project a vision of themselves. It is us doing that, because whether we try to avoid it or not writings have voice, and voices have people – just as cats do 😉

    Though, I’ll confess, apart from a strong sense of education, so that the PhD comes as no surprise, my main sense is of someone who enjoys digressing, and even convoluting.

  2. my main sense is of someone who enjoys digressing, and even convoluting

    Thanks for coming over to this blog and for your commenting, Tim! Are you talking about you or me?

    (My cats don’t know how many people they have, but they do know it’s more than one 🙂 Somehow, that reminds me of something C. S. Lewis said about some people:

    You will have noticed that most dogs cannot understand pointing. You point to a bit of food on the floor; the dog, instead of looking at the floor, sniffs at your finger. A finger is a finger to him, and that is all. His world is all fact and no meaning. And in a period when factual realism is dominant we shall find people deliberately inducing upon themselves this doglike mind.)

  3. Again, and inevitably, “Yes, I am talking about you or me.” I like the reply a student in Congo gave to an American Prof. who asked “Do you spell your name with a hyphen, or without?”. Their reply was “Yes.”

    Cats often have “people” but often one primary person, so texts often have voices, but usually one dominant voice – the only difference is a cat’s person is never “dominant”, that’s dogs.

    BTW The Lewis quote is great fun. Though, probably, sadly for our tangled web of metaphor cats also fail to understand a pointing finger. Unless trained.

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