by Spalding Gray
Actor-writer Spalding Gray refers to himself as an “autobiographic monologist”—Gray as Gray, on the subject of Gray. In performance he brings considerable charm to intimate revelations: One of his 14 stage monologues bears the apt title “Gray’s Anatomy.” Yet in this latest soliloquy-in-print, the vaunted Gray charm is for the most part lacking. He comes off here as a major worry wart.
We learn much about the formative sadness of Gray’s early life—his mother’s suicide, the aloofness of his father—and his intense preoccupation with health: “I hear that little old voice in my head, every morning, say, ‘Remember, you are going to die.’ ” Touching perhaps, but not so the candor with which he reveals his shabby treatment of Ramona, the live-in girlfriend he eventually marries even though he continues having an affair with another girlfriend, Kathie. Ramona leaves Gray soon after she finds out Kathie has borne Gray a baby boy, and eight whole months pass before he goes to see, and bond with, his son. All this takes up only 102 pages, and there are fine moments, both comic and tender. But It’s a Slippery Slope too often reads like a wail from a therapist’s couch. (Noonday, $10)