I was saddened by news of the death of Spalding Gray, whose body was pulled from the East River near Brooklyn on Sunday. Although none of the reports explicitly say he committed suicide, Gray had suffered from prolonged bouts of depression and had made previous attempts to take his life.
I glanced through “Swimming to Cambodia: the collected works of Spalding Gray” when I got home from work and was captivated all over again by his wry humour. Even if a lot of his pleasantly rambling vignettes from a disastrous life probably didn’t happen quite like that (burning his last few pieces of furniture in the fire with his girlfriend stretched out naked on the mat drinking champagne, that sort of thing), they should have done.
Spalding Gray is most famous for the monologue that derived from his bit part in the film the Killing Fields, but my favourites are stories like “Booze, cars and college girls” which recount his adolescent embarrassments in a good humoured and ironic way. As well as the Killing Fields, he was also in David Byrne’s True Stories and the film "Swimming to Cambodia", though his profession (if he had such a thing) was as a “monologuist”. In all his work, Gray identified with the round pegs wandering though a world of square holes. I guess he just gave up looking. I’m going to stop writing now, it’s just making me feel bad that such a unique life should end in this way.