Should Writers Learn How To Read?

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I’ve been thinking a lot about Spalding Gray recently.

I was lucky enough to have seen him perform in the early 90s, long before I ever committed to being a writer. It was a period when my love of reading—which really didn’t develop until my late teens—drew me to spoken word performances by artists like Gray, Henry Rollins, Jim Carroll, Eric Bogosian, James Kate SchatzMcLure and Jello Biafra. These days, my love for spoken word is more about storytelling podcasts like The Moth, Radiolab, The Truth, Word Crimes, This American Life and Snap Judgement.

And I still go see writers and storytellers perform live whenever possible. Holy cow, have you checked out Shane Koyczan? I saw him read to a room full of public radio listeners who laughed and cried at his insanely poetic storytelling. And while you’re at it, check out Kate Schatz too. Two nights ago I went to see her read from her book “Rad American Women A-Z” to a room of cross-legged children, and it was just as inspiring.

And EverythingThat same night I read Oliver Sacks’ piece about Spalding Gray for the New Yorker entitled “The Catastrophe.” The column describes, in heartbreaking detail, how the genius monologist, writer and actor descended into a suicidal spiral after a tragic car accident in Ireland. I read the article a few months after watching Steven Soderbergh’s touching 2010 documentary about Gray’s life, “And Everything Is Going Fine.

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