Spalding Gray, et cetera

Spalding Gray has been found dead.

Terribly sad. A suicide. I devoured his work when I was a teenager. I first became aware of him with Swimming to Cambodia in 1987. This was also around the time I saw Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense, Eraserhead, and Laurie Anderson’s Home of the Brave — all at the indie theater The Ken.

I count him as an influence. His honesty, style, and audacity were inspirational to me.

In 1991 (it may have been 1990) I saw him live at Mill Mountain Theatre in Roanoke performing Monster in a Box — this was before the movie was made of it. I found if profoundly moving. It was about his inability to complete a novel which talks about his own mother’s suicide. It was, as all his work was, incisive, witty, and dark. It was somehow hopeful for me at a time when I was unsure what I would do with my life.

It’s difficult to not consider his art when considering his suicide. He spoke often about suicide, analysis, his own failings and faults. Though there was much he did not talk about. In some ways I consider his personal monologues in the same way I consider certain blogs. People reveal much, but they hide just as much, if not more. For how does one cram the complexities of years of life into bite sized snippets of a line or two, a paragraph, or even a novel?

When I think of suicide, I think of my cousin Eddie. He was troubled, in trouble. He left behind a wife, children. So does Spalding. Suicide is something that has darted across my mind a few times in my life, when times have been terribly bad. The period of my separation and divorce stand out. Luckily, with analysis and counseling I was able to deal with the pain attendant to existing in a complex world. I am sad that some people are not so lucky.

Hmm. I’m forgetting when it was, but I saw Spalding Gray a few years ago as well. He did a two night stand at The Escondido Arts Center and Jennifer and I went to that. Well, Jennifer and I went to the first night, but I could only get tickets for one for the next night. My memory on this is hazy though.

I suppose the take-home message is that life is hard. And for some people, it’s not possible to retain hope.

But hope is the key. Hope for the future, hope for life, hope that things can get better.

I am lucky to have hope.


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