The Mimic's Own Voice, Tom Williams, Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2011
The Mimic's Own Voice is the story of Douglas Myles, an unusually gifted mimic, and his unlikely meteoric rise to (and dramatic fall from) fame on the comedy circuit. While the voices Myles spoke in became internationally renowned, the man behind them remained quite a mystery. In the novella his story is told as if by a researcher or academic reconstructing the events of Myles's life, piecing together all the bits of evidence about this extremely talented and elusive man.
The novella gave me a lot to think about in its consideration of identity with regard to family, race, voice, profession, and celebrity. Myles's ability emerged early and was nurtured by his family members
...[who] were most pleased when he would imitate those relatives who were not present at the time. "Do Freddy, they'd shout. Your Cousin Bailey. Your Aunt Jane. And each voice that came from your mouth fetched more laughter than the last." One by one, though, his family members departed this earth, leaving him each year with a smaller audience, and fewer voices to duplicate. Soon, it seemed, the only place where his family spoke was in his head, but no one, including him, wanted to laugh anymore."The talent which was so beloved at home, paired with his (uncommon for the time) interracial heritage, set him apart in school, and again in the professional world. The book also considers the toll an overeager public's beliefs and expectations can take on a celebrity's true self.
The Mimic's Own Voice is a remarkable and unique story, sad, thought provoking, and sometimes funny. I didn't breeze through this one- I was sometimes slowed by the narrator's formal style, and sometimes distracted by details in both the narration (such as weighing the merits of various expert opinions) and in the extensively recreated comedy scene and history, but these also impressed me. The more I consider it, the more complex both the story and the writing seem, and the more I find to chew on. Those who choose to read it will find it memorable.
Tom Williams is an associate editor of American Book Review, Chair of Humanities at the University of Houston-Victoria, and a former James Michener Fellow. For those who would like to learn more about the book or the author, I highly recommend Tom William's interview with Dan Wickett over at the Emerging Writer's Network. The book can be purchased through the publisher at Main Street Rag. Many thanks to the author for a complimentary copy of the book. All opinions expressed are my own.