And Everything is Going Fine

It occurred to me as I was viewing “And Everything is Going Fine” – a documentary by Steven Soderbergh about his friend Spalding Gray – that Gray may have in fact been the very first blogger.*

The late (great?) Spalding Gray

This is probably not an original thought.  But it was the first time it had occurred to me.

I was not a huge Gray fan, as most of his famous monologues had been delivered while I was still a child.   But in 2004, when he was declared missing and presumed dead, I was intrigued.  Soderbergh thankfully did not venture into this dark territory, although it was hinted at throughout the film. 

Hindsight is always 20/20, but the moments of thoughtful sadness, the shy vulnerability, and the raw fear of slipping into the same suicidal tendencies of his mother were plainly evident behind the witty veil of neurotic humour.

At one point, as Gray described his art as a kind of “reliving” of his life experiences, I found myself almost yelling at the screen.  “That’s not good for you, Spud!  No one should dwell so long on his or her own life.”

“I guess you’re right, it’s good to let things go,” my companion responded when I made this exclamation outside the Bloor Cinema after the film.

But it’s not just about letting things go.  That answer is too simple.

Writing can be cathartic.  It can be a kind of release, a way of spilling forth words and ideas and feelings that cannot stay contained.

As I’ve said in the past, it can also feel as though one is bleeding onto the page.  There is a fine line between the healthy release and the flow of words that once started, cannot be stopped, cannot be staunched, leaving the writer feeling shaky and weak. 

For years, Gray bled his life onto the stage for the audiences.   He was the story, and the story was him.  His life was his source of inspiration, in a blurring of life and art that is likely very familiar to many bloggers (or at least the good ones – you know who you are).   The writer gives a piece of himself to the reader, cuts himself in the process of sharing an intimate, sometimes terrible life experience.  “Look at me,” the writer says.  “I am bleeding.” 

“I have also had that experience,” the reader says.  “I am bleeding, too.  We share these wounds.  We bleed together.”

The moment of connection between writer and the audience is powerful, humbling, sometimes healing, but it takes the toll on the writer who uses himself as a source of material.  In my opinion, it cannot be sustained for any length of time without causing serious damage to the writer.

After Gray’s accident in 2001 left him with terrible neurological trauma, he was unable to tell the story.

“If you knew that you would only degenerate and would never again be able to pursue your life’s passion, would you end it?” I asked my companion. 

That is a question that can’t be answered in the hypothetical.  The answer will only come in the moment of clarity.


It is in moments of illness that we are compelled to recognize that we live not alone but chained to a creature of a different kingdom, whole worlds apart, who has no knowledge of us and by whom it is impossible to make ourselves understood: our body.

Marcel Proust

* There is still time to attend a documentary at the Hot Docs festival in Toronto – running until May 9th.


14 Responses to “And Everything is Going Fine”

  1. May 3, 2010 at 5:06 am

    I’m glad you’re still here. 🙂 It got quiet.

  2. 3 imgonnabreakyourheart
    May 3, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Spalding Gray did one performance at my venue. It was titled “It’s a Slippery Slope.” Since he disappeared, that title has haunted me. Great post.

    • 4 shoeboxdweller
      May 3, 2010 at 1:33 pm

      As you often say, your work has provided you with some wonderful experiences. Thanks for the kind words.

  3. May 3, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    I thought that said “Hot Docs festival” and I got really excited.

    Shows you wear my priorities really lie…

  4. May 3, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Goddamn it. The joke is completely ruined now, all because I forgot to change a “c” to a “g”.

    Can I still have a hot dog?

    • 7 shoeboxdweller
      May 3, 2010 at 2:36 pm

      And yet, I understood perfectly. You and I clearly share Junk Food Dyslexia.

      Mmm…hot dog. *chomp*

  5. May 3, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Interesting re first blogger as is grave stone says:
    Spalding Gray
    June 5, 1941 – Jan. 10,2004
    Beloved Husband, Father, Husband and Friend
    “An American Original, Troubled, Inner-Directed, and Can-Not Type”
    SG, 1997

    webmaster for the Estate of Spalding Gray

  6. May 4, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Oh, I missed your words, friend.

    I don’t know how to write *without* bleeding, even just a little. I guess I’ve always figured that’s just par for the writing course—you have to scrape the surface if you’re going to get anything worthwhile.

    • 12 shoeboxdweller
      May 4, 2010 at 8:51 am

      I’m never very far away…

      The surface wounds heal easily, but too many deep cuts can be fatal. I think the trick is to learn when to take some time away to regenerate.

  7. 13 twistedspinster
    May 11, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    My brother suggested I look at your work and I am very grateful to him as your work is splendid.
    I want to thank you for the Proust quote. I am working through a critical illness and have come to experience my body as an appliance most of the time. Since my passion is living, I continue – and hope I am still under warranty.

    • 14 shoeboxdweller
      May 12, 2010 at 9:48 am

      This may be one of the most wonderful comments I have ever received. Thank you, and I hope to continue to receive your comments as you follow your passion.

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