It's a Slippery Slope

Spalding Gray, Author
Spalding Gray, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $13 (112p) ISBN 978-0-374-52523-1
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
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In Swimming to Cambodia, Gray wove his insights on war into his account of the making of The Killing Fields; in Gray's Anatomy, his thoughts on the body and dying were linked with his search for a cure to his eye trouble. It was during the tour for Gray's Anatomy that he discovered the vehicle for this monologue--skiing. But the real issues here are commonplace human crises: adultery, separation, fatherhood. Renee Shafransky was Gray's longtime collaborator, manager, director and, for 17 years, his girlfriend. The two had settled into an unofficially open relationship, but one of Gray's affairs, with a woman named Kathie, lasted a couple of years, and continued even after Gray and Shafransky married. Several months later, Kathie announced she was pregnant. Shafransky, thwarted in her own desire to have a child, was distraught and left Gray; eventually, Gray ends up with Kathie and their new son. Gray says that ""telling a life was so much easier than living one."" Easier, perhaps, but not easy. Despite his avowal that he no longer feels quite like the New England puritan, he's still uncomfortable talking about such intimate stuff, and resorts to cliches and dopey jargon--functional, nonfunctional, healthy boundaries, arrested development and ""inner kid."" He even admits it: ""There, I've said it, `fusion', the word that has a ring of popular psychobabble."" His accounts of learning to ski are, by contrast, marked by his usual perceptiveness, elegance, humor and emotional precision. Gray had first come to acting because, ""I thought, I could live a passionate life onstage without consequences."" This is a portrait of a man in the painful process of being disabused. (Sept.)
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