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‘Someone else’s words in your mouth’ by Daisy Johnson

— Andrew Sargus Klein

Lately I keep turning around the same phrase in my head whenever I think about writing: What can language do?

It’s vague and vital, a little melancholic and a little melodramatic. But it’s there, insistent. I haven’t done anything with it yet.

And sometimes the world is a little disconcerting with its coincidences, its magic, because I found ‘Someone else’s words in your mouth,’ a short lyric essay by Daisy Johnson at PEN Transmissions, and it doesn’t answer the above question—it blows it apart, really, because the words that make up the question don’t / can’t do justice to the answer, or the answering.

Starting with a synopsis of Arrival and an imagining of actress Amy Adams’ interiority, jumping in a character from Johnson’s own, latest book, and landing, somehow, with you reading about yourself reading the essay itself. It ends with a question, “What do you want to say today?”

Is that another way of writing “What can language do?” I think so. And it’s another way of underlining the fantastical action that is words and their reception.


PEN Transmissions