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On a computer, the same digital code produces the alphabetic letters on the screen and the voice sound

coming through the speakers. (For the real experience of this script, play it on your computers voice reader and set Ralph for a rate of 35, pitch of 36, intonation of 82. The piece is about 1,900 words and runs about fifteen minutes as audio.) From its invention to right now (only that now was months or years ago), one of the alphabets primary uses was transcriptive: script to be read out loud (in a play or a newscast) or translation/evocation of speech. (Lyric, the double of transcriptive, has two complementary meanings; lyric means both the script of words to be sung and a poem that evokes utterance in its words alone.) Textuality, sounded, evokes orality. Textuality is a palimpsest: when you scratch it you find speech underneath. And when you sniff the speech, you find language under that. The alphabet is frozen sound. So is the audiobook and all tape-recorded voices. While the alphabet has to evoke the full range of human voice in just thirty or so characters (including punctuation marks), the audio recording provides a much thicker evocation of tone, pitch, rhythm, intonation, and accent. Unlike live performance, gramophony is a textual experience: you hear it but it doesnt hear you. Like writing, the audio voice is always a voice that conjures the presence of the speaker but marks the speakers absence. For this reason, all voice recording is on some fundamentalif usually subliminallevel ghostly. The voice of the dead speaking as if alive. Or alive one more time. Is the long car ride the necessary condition for the business model of the audiobook in our time? Take my wife. (Please.) Susan Bee tells me that on a long solo car trip she was listening to Frank McCourts reading of his Angelas Ashes and that she had to pull off the road because she found herself weeping. Marjorie Perloff tells me a story of listening to a download from PennSound, with our low-rent recordings, and, hearing the siren of a fire engine, pulling off the road before realizing it was an extraneous sound on the recording. There are only two kinds of writing: sound writing and unsound writing. Sound is always the ingenue at the media party. Sound is grace. We dont earn it, but it is forever there for us, in its plenitude, as the socialmaterial dimension of human language. Its fleece was white as snow.

[Corrections]

WAR OF SOUTHERN REGRESSION


From comments by four historians concerning the elementary school textbooks Our Virginia: Past and Present and Our America: To 1865, both published by Connecticut-based Five Ponds Press and recommended to Virginia school districts by the states board of education. After the Washington Post reported in October that Our Virginia claimed that thousands of African Americans fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War, state superintendent Patricia Wright commissioned a review of both textbooks. In 1607 Queen Elizabeth sent three ships to found Jamestown, Virginia. That would have been difficult, since Queen Elizabeth died in 1603. Swords in those days were made of steel, not iron. How could you nail a horseshoe to a shoe sole? America didnt have any tea makers; the climate isnt suited to growing tea. False. Most men did not wear wigs. The Quakers, a religious group, believed that all people were created by God. A rather unnecessary sentence, dont you think? Since Cyrus McCormick was twenty-two in 1831 when he first tested his reaper, it is unlikely his grandson was present. Eleven, not twelve, Confederate States of America. The orange sidebar on Jim Crow is not bad up until the end, when it misleads by concluding incorrectly, The name Jim Crow became an unkind way to refer to African Americans. James Madison never attended the College of William & Mary, and he never studied law at any institution of higher education. Is this really Jefferson? Even if it is, I would use another portrait because this one makes him look too much like a dandy. The boldfaced heading stating that economic differences were the reason for the secession of some Southern states is flat wrong. The inclusion of Thomas Jefferson among the members of the Convention of 1787 is wrong. He was in Paris then. In the James Lafayette story, what does Super mean in Super-spy? There was no Battle of Morristown. It is not the Battle of Second Manassas, there being but one Manassas, but the Second Battle of Manassas (or Bull Run), there being two battles in one place. The rudimentary index muddles this even worse by having references to the Battle of Second Manassas and to the Second Battle of Bull

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HARPERS MAGAZINE / MARCH 2011

Run, which was the same by a different name, and also another to Bull Run. Raleigh never came to America, so he was not sent . . . to start a colony and thus he never sailed back to England. Black bears not brown bears. Thomas Jefferson did not invent the polygraph.

[Queries]

What can we learn from Las Vegas? Is womens writing a distinct category? What difference should it make to feminism whether gender differences are natural or socially constructed? Have any philosophical problems been finally solved? Is it worse to be cruel to a fox than to a flea? Does business entertaining differ from bribery? How many civilizations are there in todays world? Do we work too hard? Can happiness be measured? What are the deprivations of affluence?

A RAVEN OR A WRITING DESK?


From general subject questions included in the All Souls College examinations between 2005 and 2010. Often described as the hardest exam in the world, the test is given over two days in September to recent graduates of Oxford, with winners receiving an Examination Fellowship of seven years. Applicants take four examinations of three hours each, and in the two general subject tests must answer three questions from a list. No more than three fellowships are awarded in any year, and in some years none are given. Last September approximately one hundred people took the exam, and three fellowships were awarded. What is war good for? From where does a sense of community come? Are there too many accountants and auditors? Is there anything to be said for astrology? Why should I tolerate? Is exile always a misfortune? If there are millions of other planets capable of supporting advanced life-forms, why havent we seen or heard from them? Is dark energy more interesting than dark matter? What do extremes in dress and personal adornment signify? Do historical novels harm historical study? Has there ever been a period that was not an information age? Why does truthfulness matter? Should England declare independence? Are universal human rights a form of cultural imperialism? Have developments in electronic communications destroyed our personal space? What can we learn from a century of sound recording? Should we worry about the fate of the British red squirrel? Is China overrated? If modern politics is managerial, should politicians be better managers? What has happened to epic poetry? [Musings]

LOADED QUESTIONS
From posts last year by Jared Loughner, under the screen name Dare, on the message board for Earth Empires, an online multiplayer game in which participants take control of your nations military and economy. In January, Loughner opened fire on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and a group of constituents outside a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona, killing six people and wounding thirteen.

Would you hit a handy cap child/adult? Would you put a childs pair of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles underwear on your girlfriend? How many stars are in the universe? What happens when everything is forgotten? What happens to every cult? What happens to every educational teaching? What happens to the languages and labels? Would you stuff a pet or wild animal? What are some stories about rejection of the opposite sex? Does anyone have aggression 24/7? If you went to prison right now . . . what would you be thinking? Are we being scammed? GRAMMAR! How many people understand perfectly? Is prison a close resemblance of high school? Why Rape!!!! How many languages are there? Why am I a salve? What is going on. What is anything called? What is my name? Have you seen that movie Hostile? Should I deny everything and anything?

READINGS

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