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[Commentary]

Archive Highlights: Spalding Gray

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Robin Snead as told to Victor Ozols, “What It Feels Like . . . to Find Spalding Gray’s Body,” Esquire, August 2007:

I got in touch with his wife, and I mentioned that I’d never try to exploit my discovery. She said, “No, please, do whatever you like. You don’t have to be tasteful. This is Spalding Gray. All he ever talked about was his own death.”

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Spalding Gray, “Fear of, Well, Flying,”, February 1992:

GRAY: But you are flying a lot and the pilots are drinking. That’s what I’m always afraid of. I’ve always said I would never fly on a plane where the pilot believes in reincarnation. When you get on a plane, do you meditate or do you feel that you can help keep the plane up? Do you have more power than the average person flying on the plane?

DALAI LAMA: I used to have a lot of fear when flying. Now I am getting used to it. But when I get very afraid or anxious, then, yes, as mentioned, I recite some prayers or some mantra. Also, you see, the final conclusion is the belief in karma. If I created some karma to have a certain kind of death, I cannot avoid that. Although I try my best, if something happens, I have to accept it. It is also possible that I have no karmic force. But then even if the plane crashes, I may survive.

Spalding Gray, “A Celebration of Flies,” August 1999:

“Dad, can I tell you something? I know what’s inside ghosts.”

“Oh, really, Forrest? Well then, what is inside ghosts?”

“Nothing, Dad.”

“And what is nothing, Forrest?”

“Nothing is just a word, Dad.

“But Dad, ‘oh my’ is not a bad word, is it?”

“No Forrest, I’ve told you over and over that there are no bad words. A word only starts to take on a good or bad meaning when it’s used in context, and we’ll discuss that one later. Also, ‘oh’ and ‘my’ are two words, not one.”

“But my teacher said we could not say, ‘Oh my God.'”

“Forrest, you can say any word you want. You can say ‘God.’ You can say ‘my.’ You can say ‘oh.’ You can say ‘God my oh.’ Now let’s go over the lesson again. What might your teacher think is a real bad word? Let’s take a really good bad word. Let’s take ‘shit.’ Well now, we don’t have the word ‘shit’ yet, do we, so we’re going to have to make it up. Create it. Done. Now, I’m going to write the word ‘shit’ in the air. It starts with the letter ‘s.’ Now is ‘s’ a bad letter? Does it smell? No. My first name begins with ‘s.’ It’s kind of a nice snaky letter. Now we make the ‘h.’ Anything bad about that? No. Now we have ‘i’ and now ‘t.’ There it is Forrest, there’s the word, s-h-i-t, written in the air. Now please don’t mistake the word for the substance in the toilet. The substance in the toilet is the thing-in-itself. It smells and it has some offensive properties. Don’t confuse the word with the substance. The word is only a signifier. Now Forrest, the Bible had it somewhat wrong, or at least the Book of John did. The Book of John says, ‘In the beginning was the word.’ The opening of Genesis is more right on. It says, ‘In the beginning God created . . .’ Now, you can forget about God for the time being and just think of the act of creation. That’s all verb. That’s all action. So we have the act, the creation, and then we have the substance created. That’s what we call the thing in and for itself, and then we have the name. You see, only after it’s something does it get named. Now look, wait, I’ve got another idea. Let’s try writing the word ‘shit’ with a stick here in the dirt. Will writing it in the dirt make it a dirty word? No, because we have to carve the dirt out with a stick in order to make the word. So it really is an absence of dirt, isn’t it?”

I put the stick down and look up at Forrest and realize that I’ve gone a little bit too far with today’s lesson. Forrest looks up at me and says, “Are you all right, Dad?”

Spalding Gray, “Right off the end forever,” August 2006:

JOURNAL ENTRY, OCTOBER 2003

I CANNOT LET the children see me go crazy. I CANNOT play that one act on them. NO. Big NO because I am in the place of my mom now. The first thoughts of suicide came to me last spring. I drove to the ocean and threw myself in. It was March and very cold. Someone at the beach saw me and called the police. The cop that stopped me knew a great deal of my work and said “Oh, yeah. You, your mother, and suicide. I’ve seen your stuff on TV, It puts me to sleep late at night.” Because he’s a fan, he takes me home instead of to the hospital, and I’m all wet.

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