Riveting, funny, heartbreaking, at once raw and lyrical: these journals reveal the extraordinary inner life of the actor-writer who invented the autobiographical monologue and perfected the form in such celebrated works as Swimming to Cambodia.
Begun when he was twenty-five, Spalding Gray's journals reflect on his childhood; his craving for success; the downtown New York arts scene of the 1970s; his love affairs, marriages, and fatherhood; his travels in Europe and Asia; and throughout, his passion for the theater, where he worked to balance his compulsion to tell all with his fear of having his deepest secrets exposed. The Journals of Spalding Gray gives us a haunting portrait of a creative genius who we thought had told us everything about himself—until now.
Excerpted from The Journals of Spalding Gray by Spalding Gray; edited by Nell Casey. Copyright © 2011 by Spalding Gray. Excerpted by permission of Vintage, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Nell Casey is the editor of the national bestseller 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 The 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.
“The publication of The Journals of Spalding Gray is a significant event in American arts and letters. . . . This is not only a great book, it’s an important book.” —Michael Cunningham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours
“A document of wrenching and exhilarating honesty, shot through with unremitting humor and irony.” –Daphne Merkin, Bookforum
"Gray comes across as a genuinely noble, striving, seeking soul, felled by a malignant fate. . . . [His] work deserves to last." —Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Times Book Review
“The Journals of Spalding Gray tell an important story that is painful to read but hard to put down. They bring you into a mind that is original and uncensoring even as it careens off the rails into deep destruction. Gray’s complex moods, dark imagination, and wit are often disturbing and deeply moving.” —Kay Redfield Jamison, author of An Unquiet Mind [set off in color or bold or something]
“[These] journals allow us to see the unreconstructed Spalding Gray. . . . The book has been superbly edited and annotated by Nell Casey; she also provides an excellent introduction. . . . Full of panic and despair, leavened with boyish misbehavior and dry wit…and lit with a kind of disembodied lyricism that honors even the blackest perceptions.” —Daphne Merkin, Bookforum
“One of the most disturbing yet insightful aspects of reading The Journals of Spalding Gray, Nell Casey’s distillation of Gray’s unpublished, personal writing, is learning how magnificently and artfully Gray constructed his appealing onstage and onscreen persona out of his own obsessions, neuroses, and troubled history. . . . These journals are perhaps most useful in helping one to understand the healing and purgative power that Gray and no doubt many other troubled artists have found in both writing and performing.” —The Boston Globe
“The brilliant, tormented performer mesmerized audiences with his autobiographical monologue, but most revealing are these diaries leading up to his suicide in 2004.” —O, the Oprah Magazine
“The journals in [the years after his car accident] record a harrowing descent into madness, when he turned one of his greatest talents as a storyteller—his ability to find connections between disparate observations and events—against himself.” —Nathaniel Rich, The New York Review of Books
“The publication of The Journals of Spalding Gray is a significant event in American arts and letters. If Walt Whitman was our great chronicler of American life toward the end of the nineteenth century, Gray was his ironic, darkly funny counterpart. He did more than anyone else to record what it was like to be human—achingly human—in the urban America of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. This is not only a great book, it’s an important book.” —Michael Cunningham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours
“The Journals of Spalding Gray…reveal a daring melancholic (he committed suicide in 2004) who mined his chaotic inner life, troubled relationships, and tragic family history to create sterling works onstage anchored by his signature desk, water glass, notebook, and microphone.” —Elle
“During his nearly 30 years as a man onstage alone, Gray perfected the art of turning his life into art. . . . Gray’s journals show a man who was constantly walking a line between trying to keep something for himself and believing it was his artistic duty to share everything with his audience.” —The Austin Chronicle
“The Journals of Spalding Gray reveal someone who was at once addicted to the rush of self-exposure and yet was also deeply private. Brooklyn-based journalist Nell Casey has edited Gray’s literary anatomy down to a readable package. . . . As Gray’s journals show, he honed his craft carefully, tweaking and adjusting his stories for maximum narrative torque.” —The Globe and Mail (Toronto)