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Review of "Life Interrupted"

By Spalding Gray
Audio Renaissance, 2006
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Aug 8th 2006
Life Interrupted

The first CD of this 2-CD package contains three short monologues by Spalding Gray, Life Interrupted, The Anniversary, and Dear New York City, with an introduction by Francine Prose. The second CD contains eulogies for Gray by friends and family, performed by themselves. Gray is well known for his performances Swimming to Cambodia. In 2001 he was in a car accident in Ireland, and this led to various health problems, that resulted in serious depression. According to one of the accounts in the eulogies, he tried to kill himself several times, and finally succeeded in 2005.

In Life Interrupted, Gray talks about his accident and the difficult time he had in hospital while in Ireland, and finally his return to the USA. As Prose emphasizes, it was an unfinished piece, which he had performed several times, but which had not gone through the same process of revision and refinement as his other talks. It is engaging because Gray was a born storyteller, and it is a dramatic to hear the details of the car accident, and the trials of dealing with the Irish hospital system which is populated by doctors from all over the world yet which has no Irish doctors are quite funny. But it is a somewhat insubstantial story, and it is more notable for what it leaves out than for what it includes. We do not learn much about the aftermath of the accident, or how it affected his mood. The two shorter pieces reflect on his life before the accident, and suggest a positive mood. The first of these, The Anniversary, is about a day in his life that he spends with his son, and the joy he gets from his son's spontaneity. It is a sweet piece, and knowing that Gray would be plunged into depression not long after performing it, it carries its own poignancy.

To be honest, however, the eulogies to Gray are more moving. They are performed by people who loved him, and who also found his final depression hard to cope with. They express powerfully their sense of loss of Gray at his best, and hint that he became a very difficult person to be around. They reminisce about how they came to know him and what a great friend he was. Listeners can piece together something of how his career as an artist came about, and how important he was in showing how it could be possible to write about a fairly ordinary life and make it both interesting and revealing. To hear the people themselves perform their words makes the experience especially personal. Note, however, that not all the pieces that appear in the printed book appear on this audio CD.

 

2006 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

 

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Reviews.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.

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