Author(s): Spalding Gray
Riveting, funny, heart-breaking, at once raw and lyrical: these journals reveal the complexity of the actor/writer who invented the autobiographical monologue and perfected the form in such celebrated works as Swimming to Cambodia. Here is the first intimate portrait of the man behind the charismatic performer who ended his life in 2004: evolving artist, conflicted celebrity, a man struggling for years with depression before finally succumbing to its most desperate impulse. It is a haunting portrait of a creative genius.
"For all its seeming straightforwardness, Gray's confessional enterprise raised thorny questions about the nature of autobiographical performance. One of the things that kept his audience coming back was the mixture of revelation and reserve, self-lacerating candor and self-mocking comedy the low-key New England native employed. How much of Gray's art was a transcription of reality, and how much was a refraction or deflection, a carefully cultivated fiction packaged as the 'truth'? Now, in a book sure to be carefully sifted for fresh evidence, "The Journals of Spalding Gray" add another provocative layer to the story. Selected by Nell Casey from some 5,000 pages, these edited entries begin in 1967, when the 25-year-old Gray was working as a regional theater actor in Houston. They end in 2003, as he spiraled toward suicide. Gray died in 2004, after an apparent jump from the Staten Island Ferry. Casey supplies useful and well-made narrative bridges. The result is a kind of memoir in fragments, frank and elliptical, unsparing and occluded. . . . Gray was full of shadow parts. A number of them emerge with more clarity and starkness in his journal than they did onstage. . . . "The Journals of Spalding Gray" reveal a tangle of interlocking identities. There's the thread of the artist coming of age and finding his singular theatrical voice and another about the backstage exploits of a demi-celebrity. We get gossip and jealousy (Gray was riveted by the amount of money Dustin Hoffman made), travelogue and therapy, marriage and the lurking demon of suicide. Finally this is a book about self-consciousness, which was both the engine and the anguish of Gray's life. . . . One puzzle is whether the journal itself, presumably a zone of private contemplation, was just another form of mediated experience. Casey makes the case, at one point, that Gray wanted to have his journal entries published. But in a way that's beside the point. Whether onstage or alone with his notebook, Gray wa
Spalding Gray was born and raised in Rhode Island. A cofounder of the acclaimed New York City theater company the Wooster Group, he appeared on Broadway and in numerous films, including Roland Joffe's "The Killing Fields, "David Byrne's "True Stories, "Garry Marshall's "Beaches, "and as the subject of the 2010 Steven Soderbergh documentary, "And Everything Is Going Fine. "His monologues include "Sex and Death to the Age 14, Swimming to Cambodia, Monster in a Box, Gray's Anatomy, "and "It's a Slippery Slope. "He died in 2004. Nell Casey is the editor of the national best seller "Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression "and "An Uncertain Inheritance: Writers on Caring for Family, "which won a Books for a Better Life Award. Her articles and essays have been published in "T"he New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, Elle, ""and ""Glamour, ""among other publications. Her fiction has been published in "One Story. "She is a founding member of Stories at the Moth, a nonprofit storytelling foundation. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.