Spalding Gray

“An American Original: Troubled, Inner-Directed and Cannot Type”

Gray’s own epitaph, 1997.

A handful of my contemporaries have profoundly inspired me, and Spalding Gray is absolutely one of them. Swimming to Cambodia was a revelation. The sly mix of factual horror and excruciating comedy had me fascinated from the first. Gray’s reaction to Year Zero was American liberalism at its best. A necessary reminder to a world frothing with anti-American sentiment that a nation is not a singularity. It is rather an abstraction for fanatics to cling to, and other fanatics to assail.

His work had a lyricism, a rare candour and an unselfish willingness to expose his raw, pulsating ego to the world. Gray mixed together the parts of actor, stand-up, orator and seer. Perhaps to his own disdain, he was also truly a poet in the grand and epic tradition. His monologues are a revelation of our time. His unique skill in combining words and meanings is found throughout his work. His later monologue Gray’s Anatomy is further tribute to a hugely significant talent. His death is a tremendous loss.

Have a look at his friend John Perry Barlow’s early and affecting obituary, and the confirmation of his death.

October 2004