VOICE OF THE FISH: a lyrical essay, by Lars Horn
In the depths of the ocean creatures make their own light. There’s the anglerfish, which draws prey to its huge fangs with a dangling, glowing orb. Or the siphonophore, a glittering, self-cloning organism that can grow longer than a blue whale. Their brightness belies the darkness of the deep sea, how little we really know about what lives there. “What should they see during their slow pulse through the world?” Lars Horn, the author of the riveting lyrical essay “Voice of the Fish,” muses on these creatures that are older than humans, even older than some cities.
Horn, a British writer and translator who uses the pronoun “she” (despite pronouns being “smooth, distant things”) is David Attenborough of the mystic. They would have been a Pisces if they hadn’t had a difficult pregnancy and had urged their mother and aunt to avoid a certain date of birth – a birthday for two men in the family with “aggressive temperaments, a certain disdain for women.” So it was that Horn was born under the zodiac sign of Aries and was assigned a wife. After they left the house years later, a healer, looking for an injured foot, told Horn it was a “late change, by fate, to see you born under the Aries and not the Pisces.” He seemed to know this intuitively; Horn hadn’t said anything about their birthday. “You must swim to the Pisces,” said the healer, after gently washing Horn’s foot. “Water, you have to go to the water.”
The book’s underlying story, layered with histories, myths, and vignettes about marine life, is that of another, more serious injury: In 2014, the author tore muscles from their right shoulder to their lower back while lifting weights, rendering them unable to speak. or reading for months – a forced silence and silence. They had endured such a dead silence so many times. Horn was the only child of a single mother, an artist who posed Horn as dead for photographs and installations and left them for full-body plaster casts. The body always adapts, the book states. As fluid as gender, like a changing tide, it shifts in response to pressures, described here in vivid accounts: transmale rebirth, transphobic locations in Russia and Florida, violence and injury, and the inevitability of disability.