As the first decade of the new century was getting underway, Spalding Gray worried that the joy he'd finally found with his wife, stepdaughter, and two sons would fail to fuel his work as a theatrical monologist the way anxiety, conflict, doubt, and various crises once had. Before he got the chance to find out, however, an automobile accident in Ireland left him with the lasting wounds of body and spirit that ultimately led him to take his own life. But as his dear friend novelist Francine Prose notes in this volume's foreword, "Even when his depression became so severe that he was barely able to hold a simple conversation, he was, miraculously, able to perform." As was always his method, Gray began to fashion a new monologue in various workshop settings that would tell the story of the accident and its aftermath.
Perhaps best known for his first theatrical monologue, 1985's Swimming to Cambodia (which later became a surprisingly successful film, directed by Jonathan Demme), Gray followed Cambodia with many more autobiographical performances, including Monster in a Box and Slippery Slope (and many film appearances) until his suicide at age 62 in spring 2004. A traumatic automobile accident in 2001 had left him severely depressed-this, and the hospital stay that followed, is the subject of the unfinished monologue that makes up only a short part of this memorial volume. Introduced by novelist Francine Prose in a graceful essay citing Gray's "unlikely and hilarious pilgrim's progress," the book includes short eulogies by some of Gray's many friends in memorial services at Lincoln Center and in Sag Harbor, his home. Many are from figures in the world of books and publishing-his agent, Suzanne Gluck; novelist A.M. Homes; essayist Roger Rosenblatt-others from show biz, like Laurie Anderson, John Perry Barlow, Eric Bogosian, Eric Stoltz and many more. This is an unusual book to put out as a trade edition and indicates the affection and esteem Gray commanded. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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September 19, 2005
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Excerpt from Life Interrupted by Spalding Gray
I didn't think there'd be another monologue, and I'm still not sure if there is. I had settled down into domesticity and a quiet life out in Sag Harbor and didn't want to continue making family soap opera. Or at least I thought I didn't.
When I turned sixty there was no big celebration, just a family gathering. I said I didn't want anything. NPR did announce it on Morning Edition, I was happy to hear. Garrison Keillor did not, on his birthday show. We're not exactly on the best of terms. I reviewed a book of his called Leaving Home in the New York Times, and I opened with my girlfriend at the time saying that if I played that show Prairie Home Companion again she'd throw the radio out the window.
There was no party, just a birthday dinner at home, and I remember Forrest, my eight-year-old, saying, "Hey, Dad, remember how much fun it was having a birthday before you found out that you were going to die?"
Then there was a surprise. About two weeks after that, Kathie, my wife, gave me a present of a trip to Ireland for the whole family. Kathie's always coming up with these crazy trips. I remember she took us to the Ice Hotel up in Quebec City where you pay three hundred dollars a night to sleep on a block of ice. So Ireland was cushy. It was a rainy version of the Ice Hotel, I suppose. A little more whimsical, and rainy, and not frozen. I'd been six times before and wanted to go back. It made me laugh in a way that the United States doesn't. We had rainy times but good times. In spite of the rain it was a jolly place. I can remember Kathie and me riding bikes in the rain for hours and then coming upon this Irishman leaning against his bicycle with a golf hat on or whatever they wear, and he said, "How are you doing?" I said, "It's just awful weather, it's just awful," and he said, "No, it's not. It hasn't gotten cold yet."
So I like them; they're optimistic and philosophical. They're not industrialized, really-there was no industrial revolution-so they drive pretty haphazardly. They don't have a great relationship to machinery, to say the least. There's a lot of banging around and the roads are very narrow, and they just get in their cars and go, you know they just put the pedal to the metal and they're going everywhere, in all directions.