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Journals insightful

A look at Spalding’s inner thoughts

By Kurt Rabin

The Free Lance-Star

SPALDING Gray, the writer and actor who enjoyed a 25-year run as an autobiographical monologist, could turn anything into a story. Until one day he couldn’t.

Even when Gray, after years of having affairs and using alcohol to smooth his rough edges, discovered happiness with Kathie Russo and their children, he somehow integrated his newfound domesticity into his act.

Gray came to fame for “Swimming to Cambodia,” a monologue based on his experiences in Southeast Asia for the filming of “The Killing Fields.” He’d score another success with “Monster in a Box,” which detailed the difficulties he experienced writing “Impossible Vacation,” his novel about the difficulties the semi-autobiographical narrator had simply taking a vacation.

When Gray vacationed in Ireland in June 2001, he was involved in a serious car crash. It left him with a jagged scar on his forehead and a titanium plate in his head. The accident left Gray a shell of his former self.

He always seemed most alive when recounting the narrative of his life to others.  Gray left behind a journal, which was begun in 1967, when he was 25 and still in shock over his mother’s suicide at 52 years of age, and ended just before his death.

“The Journals of Spalding Gray,” edited down from its original 5,000 pages by the writer Nell Casey, is a good introduction to Gray and his themes. You’ll learn about his childhood, the New York arts scene in the 1970s and his passion for the theater, where he worked to balance his compulsion to tell all with his fear of having his deepest secrets revealed.

“We have lost Gray, but there is still more for him to tell us,” writes Casey in the book’s introduction.

Kurt Rabin  is a copy editor for The Free Lance–Star.


Edited by Nell Casey

(Knopf, $28.95, 368 pp.)


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