Books by Spalding Gray

Released: Oct. 19, 2011

"A journey into a darkness too deep for hope to brighten."
The troubled ruminations of the celebrated actor and writer, entries that darken as they approach his death by suicide in 2004. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 11, 2005

"Readers shouldn't be blamed for feeling misled and slightly cheated by a book marketed as a Spalding Gray title, when only a fraction consists of his own words."
The late monologist's last work, heavily reliant on eulogies delivered by friends and family at two memorial services conducted after his 2004 suicide. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1999

Gray (It's a Slippery Slope, 1997, etc.) is an indefatigable talker. That's how he makes his living. Here he talks some more, a lot more, as he muses his way through one recent day. It's no Bloomsday, this day in the life of Spalding Gray. It starts slowly and works its way up to pedestrian speed. Eventually, though, he gets moving with deep thoughts about love, death, and related matters. The flowing discourse concerns home life in Sag Harbor, New York, with patient Kathie; Marissa, her daughter by an earlier liaison; their young son, Forrest; and baby Theo. There are, naturally, diverse thoughts about family life, its joys and terrors. This domestic field has been plowed before and Gray does as well with it as the next self-absorbed 56-year-old with a fear of sons. There is, to be sure, some humor. He attempts to teach his boy the semiotics of the word "shit," follows with a riff on ATMs and thence to thoughts of bank tellers' underwear. On and on he goes, offering vagrant comments on hand-propelled lawn mowers, his late mother's flatulence, churches, and, perforce, sex. Like a latter-day George M. Cohan, he's not above waving Old Glory, "the most beautiful of all the flags in the world." Sometimes he's an artful old philosopher and sometimes he's Al Bundy. (Kathie calls contractors; her family name is Russo "and I figure that's good, because so many of the contractors are of Italian-American descent.") Gray's shtick is to seem to let it all hang out in an excess of introspection. Sporadically, there is a universal quality. At other times, it's a lot, a surfeit, a plenitude of unilateral conversation. While others may be ready to cry "uncle," his many fans will consider the talk just fine. As a performed monologue, the words are probably charming and strong in the sentiment department. On paper, it's light, light entertainment as Gray disrobes again. Read full book review >
IT'S A SLIPPERY SLOPE by Spalding Gray
Released: Sept. 1, 1997

An avalanche of shallow solipsisms as the veteran monologist takes to the slopes and learns to ski. Artists who plumb their lives for their work run the grave risk of using up all their best material and being reduced to diary trivialities and fire-sale reminiscences. Gray (Impossible Vacation, 1992, etc.) has seemed to be headed in this direction for a while; now he is finally there. He tries to freight everything with meaning—weighing skiing down with a series of pompous metaphors about existence—but this only amplifies the base banalities that threaten at every turn. ``In order to be in control, you have to be out of control. . . . It's the first leap of faith that I've ever had in my life.'' As he stumbles along, he tries to drag in his mother's suicide, his unexpected fatherhood, and the breakup of his long-term relationship/marriage. The descriptions of this last item are as painful as any skiing injury, as Gray alternates self-justifying contrition with the kind of analysis you'd expect from a third-rate shrink. After he fathers a child with the ``other woman'' and his marriage disintegrates, Gray has an epiphany on the slopes that is almost startling in its egocentrism and moral obtuseness: ``I thought I was going to self-destruct and instead I helped bring new life into the world. I gave myself a big high five, and I thought, You know, I've returned to New England and I'm no longer a puritan.'' The monologue style, with its frequent repetitions and digressions, makes all this even more awkward. What may work well before an audience just seems uncontrolled on paper. This snow job should shake the devotion of even Gray's most steadfast fans. Read full book review >
Released: May 14, 1992

So here it is at last, the ostensible subject of Gray's latest stage (and, come the spring, screen) monologue Monster in a Box: a first novel that reads like an existential autobiography and has his mother's suicide (a longtime Gray subject) as its core. Little Brewster North is on a Rhode Island beach with Mom when his uncle gives him a monkey mask from Bali, a WW II trophy, and we witness the birth of a child's imagination. A lyrical opening, but Brewster's happy childhood crumbles when Mom's zeal for Christian Science turns to craziness. Though wanting to end his emotional dependence on her (``it was too sticky and warm to be right''), Brewster cannot rouse himself to fly the coop until he's 25; then he finds a girlfriend (Meg) and acting work in upstate New York. He is on vacation in Mexico when Mom kills herself. This feeds Brewster's guilt, and a dark fear that Mom/Medea is not finished, and may somehow kill her children too. It's about here that we long for the distance that Lawrence achieved from his mother in his autobiographical Sons and Lovers; but then, mercifully, up pops the Gray of the monologues, with a wonderfully funny account of a failed attempt to bring experimental theater to Middle America. The work's second half becomes a roller-coaster ride as Brewster punishes himself for not saving Mom by arranging his own ``fast and total disorientation of the senses.'' His breakdown begins in India, blooms in Amsterdam (he has sex in a gay bathhouse), and rages on in New York; his brazen affair with a groupie finally provokes a breakup with the loyal Meg. After some time on the road, he ends his story, arbitrarily, in the Grand Canyon. Although it fails as a novel, this sui generis work has some of the best writing about sex since Henry Miller and some of the best writing about a breakdown since Sylvia Plath; its eccentric charm should enlarge Gray's already considerable following. Read full book review >