Lipton’s Journal/January 31, 1955/328

From Project Mailer

But, carry this a step further. I suspect that the first impact of the radio was that the ear was given “unselected” sound. So, sound effects. Paper rustled near a microphone sounded too loud. Who is to say it does not sound too loud in life and we merely suppress it? Elements of the voice which had been buried before became more evident to people—naturally at an unconscious level—it being understood as a basic premise through all of these notes that I see the unconscious as not one unconscious, but a whole series of unconsciouses, conceivably infinite, each more buried—and therefore closer to the essential H—than the one above.

So put in this light, the voice of radio penetrated more deep into the unconscious layers than the human voice, face to face, where many interferences were present. Therefore an immediate fascination (as Bob[1] says—attraction and repulsion in one package) was the result. The radio was actually conveying more reality in its details of course than normal human intercourse. But much more can be said. (There is great interference to my thoughts today. I work along at a dragging rate, instead of racing like last week.) On radio we notice certain qualities of the voice—it never sounds the same close to the microphone and far away. On tape recorders, which are cruder, this is even more true. Every effect of the voice bouncing off objects and walls seems to be magnified.

I wonder if the truth is that a part of us, deep within us, actually hears aural experience this way. What I wish to emphasize is that S encourages us to hear the voice as one. We think of people as having a voice, not voices, but indeed a person never has the same voice exactly. At every distance we exercise our vocal chords differently from the way we exercise them close up—we are communing through all the filters of the situation in a slightly different way.

In crude forms I’ve known this always without labeling. The voice of one’s mate in one’s ear is vastly different from the “same” voice calling across a room. And, indeed, because the discrepancy of recorded voices and “live” voices seemed too great, the sound effects man and the recording engineer were born. Their effort was to bridge the gap—the same may be said for movie lighting. The attempt in both is not only to increase “verisimilitude”—an S concept, for H always sees the individual experience as multiple—but to censor part of the actual reality. In the films, it is not merely a question of improving the deficient “seeing” qualities of photographic emulsions, but also a business of warping the final achievement.


  1. A prominent Baltimore psychoanalyst and writer, Robert Lindner (1914-56) became acquainted with Mailer after reading Lindner’s 1952 sharp critique of current psychoanalytic practice, Prescription for Rebellion (1952), published by NM’s publisher, Rinehart. The letter, which contained both praise and criticism for Lindner’s ideas, led to a close friendship over the next four years, including many visits and the sharing of work, including “Lipton’s.” See extended note on entry 56.