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The Outsider

by on October 27, 2010

The Outsider is always with me. I’ve never seen him but I hear his voice in my head.

His voice is kind and brimming with a quiet, wry humour. His is the voice of the lithe old man who has seen the world and found even cruelty beautiful in its way. His is the voice of the curious child whose perfect naiveté grants absolute clarity.

The outsider is my trusted companion: constant, calm and true. He is unaffected by me, by how I feel, by shit that happens, by what they think or by what they say. He sees honestly and often narrates.

Imagine me, 23 years old, driving home late at night in the rain. Just as I felt the wheels losing traction on the slick tarmac I hear his voice: “You’re never going to make that corner you know” (He ends a lot of sentences with “you know”). “You were driving too fast; pretty stupid”.

As the car spun through its first rotation and clipped something with a dull crunchy thrup, the outsider chuckled. “Not a bad way to die – young, fast and fearless – good narrative overtones”: he seemed almost proud.

Three or four revolutions and another jarring crunch later the car stopped moving. I was mostly unharmed and deeply surprised by it. The outsider said nothing more that difficult night, but I knew he was nearby: I could his feel his infectious joy in the world, in the richness of it all, in the sheer variety and complexity.

The Outsider is always with me. Perhaps he is me. Perhaps he is all that is me.

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5 Comments
  1. cbraz permalink

    I loved this. It is a beautifully crafted insight into an inner voice, which I know in myself and am sure most of us have at times. At first I struggled somewhat with the conception of this voice as the outsider, but on reflection really liked it – it does sometimes feel that this voice is somehow separate from one’s mundane everyday self. I also really like the warmth of the characterisation, coupled with id-like comments. Often such a voice is seen as proscriptive, critical and harsh rather than warm and knowing in a slightly detached way.

    The piece is very well put together – I like the framing of beginning and end, the description of the outsider, and then the vignette which illustrates how he acts beautifully.

    Some phrases that I particularly enjoyed:
    “His is the voice of the lithe old man …the voice of the curious child ..” – This whole sentence is poetic and visually descriptive – very beautiful.
    “by what they think or by what they say” – this says so much while leaving so much unsaid, like who they are, because it doesn’t matter who they are.
    “clipped something with a dull crunchy thrup” – I love the rhythm of this sentence and the other accident descriptions. Excellent use of onomatopoeia.

    I have two crits:
    In “He is unaffected by me, by how I feel…” I don’t like the first part as it feels wrong to say he is unaffected by you; because he is always with you he at least only sees the places you go and the things you see so is affected by you. I would prefer this as “He is unaffected by how I feel…”.
    In “Just as I felt the wheels losing traction on the slick tarmac I hear his voice”, I want the verb tenses to match. Since the rest is past, I would make the second verb “heard” rather than hear, or make the whole incident present tense.

    • Thanks, glad you liked the child voice/old man voice sentence I almost deleted it due to pretentiousness.

      Unaffected by me… I see you point – always thought the informal ‘shit that happens’ would be people’s problems with this sentence – interesting.

      Hear vs heard – yep indeed you are right – I tried it first in present and then (incompletely apparently) changed it

  2. What I enjoyed most was how the Outsider had a distant, detached voice when commenting on the accident, and how this contrasts with the Narrator’s discussion of it, which is also somewhat distant (although it leans towards joyousness). I enjoyed the description in the whole of the second paragraph as well.

    I have some nitpicks:

    Some of the diacritics on “naïveté” were left off. I think that they should either be all off or all on, and it’s better to leave

    For the dialogue: I would have placed the final fullstop inside the dialogue itself:
    > “You were driving too fast; pretty stupid[.]”
    I’d do this as well for the dialogue followed by parentheses, and because the parentheses will now longer be inside a sentence, stick the fullstop inside of it.

  3. parfles permalink

    This is a good idea and well followed through, with the outsider being a much more interesting personality than the main character – a meta personality that is more concerned with narrative than real consequences.

    The voice of this one however felt strange to me – I could somehow never quite buy it. I think my impression was that of someone being a little pretentious about themselves – it felt like someone who was making themselves sound more interesting by making up an inner life. I think that’s just my reading of the tone.

  4. I like this a lot, even though it felt a bit nasty.
    The interaction between the two is finely played.

    +1 for “His is the voice…” being very nicely written.
    Also enjoyed the bookends.

    I liked the delicate handling of the crash, too.
    Nothing too explosive, just a more clinical, hindsight-y description.

    I will henceforth be using the word thrup for colliding things.
    It is good.

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