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For almost 20 years, Spalding Gray has been shining a spotlight-sharp sense of humor on the areas of his life that most of us would keep hidden. This 56-year-old monologuist, writer, and actor has turned his fear of death, pain over his mother’s suicide, and angst over romantic betrayal into fodder for 14 traveling monologues. A cult hero who won a 1984 Obie special citation for his show Swimming to Cambodia, Gray has most recently been touring with a new work, It’s a Slippery Slope (to be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux this fall). In it, Gray chronicles his struggles with fatherhood, overcoming his “me” decades, and his remedy for life’s ills: learning to ski.

Here’s what he had to say about performance artist Danny Hoch, who’s touring this fall with a new piece entitled Evolution of a Homeboy:

“Hoch is a street kid from Queens — a kind of Eric Bogosian, but with heart. He does a series of street characters that are somewhat disturbed, somewhat passionate. And he has a kind of Joycean approach to language. His work is filled with a lot of heart, not just psychosis.”

Also recommended by Gray:

Shawn Colvin’s most recent album, A Few Small Repairs. “It’s just fresh and new for me, very lyrical. It’s a tone I haven’t heard before, very original.” ! Columbia Records, 1996

Raymond Carver’s Where I’m Calling From on audiotape. “These make great bedtime stories. Carver can take material images and sketch them in a way that makes them spiritual. And actor Peter Riegert, who reads the stories, has got the perfect working-class Raymond Carver tone. One of the stories, ‘Cathedral,’ is probably one of the greatest short stories ever written.” ! New York: Random House Audiobooks, 1989

Continental Drift by Russell Banks. “He bounces between a working-class man from New Hampshire who’s trying to get established in Florida, and Haitian refugees on a boat headed toward Florida. It’s so beautifully structured, it moved me to tears.” ! New York: HarperCollins, rereleased 1994

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Democracy and journalism are in crisis mode—and have been for a while. So how about doing something different?

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