Shades of Gray
A legendary performer's journals reveal a dry wit and dark obsessions
The Journals of Spalding Gray
by Spalding Gray
$28.95 List Price
How many secrets can one person have, especially a person who has made a living out of spilling them, ruthlessly mining his own experience for autobiographical monologues that brought him no small amount of fame and fortune? Not many, it would seem. But if you’re Spalding Gray, the writer and performer of self-revealing one-man performances such as Swimming to Cambodia and Gray’s Anatomy, you can have private secrets within performed secrets, unspoken confessions behind the public ones.
That, at any rate, is what emerges from the pages of Gray’s journals, a document of wrenching and exhilarating honesty, shot through with self-hatred but also with unremitting humor and several shades of irony. Once you start reading, the book draws you in with its dire, lunatic brand of introspection, almost as though you were listening to an emergency phone call from a close friend who can’t, or won’t, hang up until he’s done detailing all the reasons why he’s a fraud and why his life sucks and why it’s high time he put an end to it. The anguish is real, whether it be about Gray’s conflicted sexual identity, his ambivalent feelings about celebrity (he once described himself as “a connoisseur of ambivalence”), his bouts of depression, or his various phobias, but so, for long stretches, is the sly twinkle in his eye. At one point Gray compares his journals to John Cheever’s, and they do indeed have some of the latter book’s urgent candor and distilled insights about sexual compulsions, as well as the dissonance between public and private personas, especially in regard to outward success and
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