SEX AND DEATH TO THE AGE 14 by Spalding Gray


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These six monologues are faithful renditions of stage performances that the author has performed with great success over the years. Finding himself unable to write out his stories naturally, Gray has instead transcribed and edited actual performances. His voice--comic, pungent, intimate--is thus brought back alive. His stories are autobiographical, and are here arranged in more or less chronological order. The earlier stories are fine and wonderful, trimmed into stunning, barely connected little paragraphs. The ironic distance he has towards the callow youth allows him to bypass apologetics and explanations to relish the absurdities of his life. Once the narrator becomes known as ""the world-renowned talk show host,"" he becomes less accessible. Nonetheless, the later stories are enjoyable, especially ""Perfect White Right Angles,"" in which he buys a ramshackle house and then has to market himself to Hollywood to pay for fixing it up. Stylistically, there are many similarities between these stories and the work of Raymond Carver or Mary Robison. They are minimalistic in form and obsessive in recording details. They find something awkward or nihilistic or hilarious in the mundane. Gray is searching the seemingly homogeneous American culture for its cracks, flaws, and twists. Gray's tales do tend to meander. Some have clear themes, others seem only to follow the patterns of happenstance, as if to stress the chaos of life by their strange bridges and leaps. Gray is on a very personal search for either transcendence or experience, whichever comes first. Following his paths--whether comic or sublime--is delightful.

Pub Date: May 16th, 1986
ISBN: 0394742575
Publisher: Vintage/Random House