Having been on the road a bit lately, giving readings from the recently released novel, I was planning to record a few observations here about reading in public, but my thoughts ended up somewhere far away. Nevertheless, I’ll try to retrace my steps.
For starters, here is what I consider the most important lesson I’ve learned from the many readings I’ve given: Reading is theater. This, for me, doesn’t imply that it’s supposed to be over-the-top or “dramatic,” but that you embody the words; you feel them as you’re reading them; you speak them as if you have never spoken them before, as if they just occurred to you now, on the epiphanic tip of the present; you use your full body in the expression (at least subtly), including, yes, your hands; you speak in different, appropriate voices for the different personas or characters who may be contained in the writing; and, of course, you articulate and project!
And here is where my mind ended up: Your writing isn’t alive until it is in your lungs and your throat and your mouth and your ears. This is the origin of all our language. This is where it wants most desperately to be, where it is most at home, in the voice of the one who brought it into being, who brings it perpetually into being, in the voice of the one that is simultaneously you the individual and you the species and you the very vessel of life. Your language loves your body. This is its source and destination. When the circuit is broken, it dies. Please don’t let it languish. Please don’t neglect it. It yearns only for the warmth of your breath to bring it to life.