Thursday, December 29, 2011

Reading Backwards

I just finished an amazing book - Spalding Gray's journals, published by Knopf. It is a must-read for anyone who ever loved Gray's monologues or had the privilige of seeing them (I think I saw him 4 times). I've never done this before, but I started this book toward the end because I couldn't quite remember the circumstances behind Gray's death and I wanted to refresh my memory. There had been a terrible car accident on a trip to Ireland in which he incurred a severe brain injury, propelling his already frail mental health into further despair.

I next moved to the middle of the book, starting when he booked the role in the movie "The Killing Fields", the experience which inspired his monologue, "Swimming to Cambodia." He is so alive in these sections. Totally neurotic, but so immersed in living a creative life.

I then finished the book at the beginning, which chronicles his post-college days (Coincidentally, he went to my college, Emerson College). This part is where he learns of his mother's suicide.

It was very interesting reading this backwards. I felt like a psychologist, piecing together the layers that made up this complex human being. It was also compelling to watch the themes of his life emerge. Water and water imagery played such an important role in his life - from the title of his monologue ("Swimming to Cambodia") to his childhood on the Rhode Island coast, to his ultimate death by drowning.

I was so taken by this book that it has inspired me to pitch a new course at the art college where I teach - something like, "In Their Own Words - Artists Write About Living a Creative Life." It might be awkward discussing all of Gray's sexploits, but oh well...

Speaking of reading backwards, with the new year fast approaching I am looking back at '11 - what a busy, expansive, intense, abundant year it has been. I am grateful for so much and look forward to welcoming in '12. When the clock strikes midnight I will probably be in downward dog, my new New Year's Eve yoga ritual. I hope that you, too, find yourself in an interesting position, whatever that may be, and I look forward to connecting with you in the new year!