Friday, March 12, 2010

Hands across the sea.

Back in the days when I lived in Manhattan, I used to volunteer in the audiobook recording studio of the Andrew Heiskell Library, the New York Public Library's facility for the blind and visually handicapped on 20th Street. I mainly worked on the outside of the booth, as the "sound engineer" -- back in the pre-digital days of reel-to-reel tape -- but during my ten-year stint, I also narrated several books, including my own complete works.

One of the first books I voiced was a young adult title called The Winter Hare by Joan Goodman, a lovely historical adventure set in twelfth century England. I knew Joan slightly -- she was married to an old friend of mine -- and she came in to the library to put her stamp of approval on the first recording session.

Later, she reported that she had played extracts from the finished audiobook to her agent. My performance was deemed  "just British enough."

This reminds me of an accusation that was once fired at me. I don't recall the exact circumstances, but I'm simply haunted by the memory of a female voice, possibly belonging to my friend Gillian, cutting in to one of my flights of enthusiasm with the dismissive: "Oh, Alan, you're so English!" The thing that stands out is that I'm sure this took place while I was still living in England.

Last year, I quietly passed the point where I'd lived more than half my life in America (and I deeply regret that I didn't get to celebrate it the way I'd have liked). In that time -- 26 years -- I've gone from too English for the English to just British enough.

Well, I do have the deathly pallor, but my front teeth are all straight. And they're still mine.

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