The late monologist's last work, heavily reliant on eulogies delivered by friends and family at two memorial services conducted after his 2004 suicide.
“Unfinished” may be the key word to describe both Gray's life and this book. Gray committed suicide at age 62 by leaping off the Staten Island Ferry into frigid New York Harbor. But that was just the last of many suicide attempts after a terrible car accident in Ireland in June 2001 left his body and spirit broken. In the title 40-page essay, Gray recounts with typical mordancy the accident and his subsequent hospitalizations in both Ireland and New York. The volume also includes a 10-page essay written on the tenth anniversary of his first meeting his wife, Kathy Russo. The majority of the book consists of recollections and tributes delivered at two separate memorial services—one at Lincoln Center, the other in his hometown of Sag Harbor, N.Y. Those paying tribute included his widow, his older brother, Rockwell Gray and fellow performers Eric Bogosian, Laurie Anderson and Eric Stoltz. Some of those are moving and revelatory. Others are less so, at times bordering on the platitudinous. Particularly touching are the recollections of Gray’s teenaged stepdaughter Marissa, describing her struggle to live with the suicidal, broken man her father became after the car accident. Another comes from fellow author Roger Rosenblatt, who noted of Gray: “No one ever could be so sublimely miserable.” The portrait of Gray that emerges is one of an adventurous, open-hearted, troubled soul who spent his life searching for “the perfect moment.” This, he apparently never found. But this book makes us miss his easy-going wit, already preserved in previous personal essays like “Swimming to Cambodia.”
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.