Actor James Earl Jones. His is one of the distinctive voices of our time, yet few people know he fights a stutter; Jones' stage work off-Broadway in Jean Genet's "The Blacks" and Athol Fugard's "The Blood Knot" lead to a Broadway success in "The Great White Way", for which Jones won a Tony. His work in August Wilson's "Fences" won him another. It took one day to record the voice track for Darth Vader in "Star Wars": a performance which lead to many other commercial voice-over projects.
Shields went to speech therapy the same time he attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Like the author himself, the protagonist of his new novel, Dead Languages, has a stutter. Shields' writing explores the gap between his mastery of written language and his difficulties speaking.
The prolific and award-winning author is uncomfortable with fame, and has kept a low public profile. Now he opens up in a new collection of autobiographical essays. Updike uses his own body as a jumping-off point for his ruminations.