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Swimming to Cambodia

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  909 ratings  ·  55 reviews
a signed copy in red ink. "To Maria, beware of perfect moments, Spalding"
Paperback, First Edition, 127 pages
Published 1985 by Theatre Communications Group
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(showing 1-30 of 1,507)
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I had never heard of Spalding Gray but his book looked interesting. It is a written-down version of his live monologues about his life.

It wasn't that it was particularly poorly written, it's just that Spalding himself did so many things I don't admire, to say the least. He indulges himself frequently in various drugs and new age nonsense, is a mass of neurotic notions, immerses himself in gallons of liquor and hires whores...whenever. His life stories of drugs, sex and idiotic eccentricity were
First read, this book made a big impression on me. I especially carried around the idea of the Jewish concentration camp survivors meeting up each year, sure that this reunion will always mean the same thing...only to find, as time went on, that it didn't. It lost its urgent impact.

Second read, sure reunion would mean the same thing as first time, but what can I say? What Spalding says. It didn't. It had lost its something.

As is so often the case for me, reunion with a book is a disappointment.
Dec 26, 2008 Valerie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Valerie by: Bruce Bullis
Although the book is marvelous, one had to see the man perform to truly appreciate him.
Haven't read it. If I love it as much as I love the movie...well I'll love it!
I adore and miss Spalding Gray. One of my main writing inspirations.
I thought this was an interesting and sometimes disturbing ramble through one man's mind. The mind in question is connected to a series of unfortunate and interesting events--Pol Pot's genocidal takeover of Cambodia after American withdrawal, the film based on this tragedy, and a bunch of intimate details of the author's life. This style of monologue is pretty compelling for its fluidity, and I think Gray achieves a certain level of identification with this reader at least. The result is less a ...more
Hailey Hughes
This epic monologue is sometimes confusing to follow, but heartfelt and hilarious as Gray recounts his time working on "The Killing Fields" and talking about his childhood and other people in his life.
I saw this show in person back in 1985 and reading the book brought back the wonderful stage experience that Spalding Gray presented. There is no one around like him anymore and that is a loss for everyone.
One of my favorite movies is The Killing Fields (which tells you a lot about me, I'm guessing). While researching information about the movie, its message, and whatnot and so forth many years ago, I stumbled upon this - a monologue that was transcribed about a very odd man in a a self-admitted little role in one of my favorite films.

It's a complete treat to read, but the movie (as Gray notes in one of his later monologues as 87 minutes of a man, sitting behind a desk, talking) is what really m
Ana Rusness-petersen
Great book/monologue - easy to slip into and start visualizing. I first heard of this monologue when I worked at the Goodman Theatre, and Spalding Gray was scheduled to swing through and perform it in the Owen. For some reason (personal, I think) he was unable to make it. And after reading this, I'm struck by how sad it is I've lost the chance to see him perform. It was also fascincating to "hear" him write about his interactions with other actors from the movie "The Killing Fields" including Ch ...more
What a disappointment! Especially since someone once suggested that I would connect with this. Waste of time, ugh!
Shawn Persinger
Warning: This a nostalgia review, I have not read this book in many, many years. Nevertheless, this book is the reason I am a reader (possibly also why I am a writer).

I saw Spaulding Gray on David Letterman in the mid-1980s, I would have been roughly 14 years old, and thought, "People write books about these sorts of things? I didn't know that." So I bought this book and I have been reading ever since.

Is the movie better? Probably.

Is this review a more about me than Spaulding Gray or "Swimmin
Gray’s social commentary is brilliant and his self-deprecating humor always amuses me. Reading this is no substitute for watching him perform the material, however. For me the two are very different experiences. I love watching Gray deliver his monologues; I find him intelligent and charming. I revel in his stream of consciousness delivery, his endless digressions. When I read a monologue, though, Gray is a different person, a person I don’t like very much. When I finished reading Swimming to Ca ...more
How I loved Spalding Grey: brilliant, tortured, hillarious. Sometimes his work could get so intimate that it felt uncomfortable, (I remember an essay on infidelity where he described screwing another woman - now that's laying it bare) but this is more distanced while still remaining personal. To this day I still look for a perfect moment on every vacation that lets me know it's time to go home. This was his most famous and well recieved work. It's the high point of his career and a great entry i ...more
entertaining as always, this book based on Gray's monologue/movie of the same name is an interesting insight into the making of the movie the Killing Fields, life in Thailand and Cambodia, and US involvement in that region.

i prefer his monologue "live" where his tone of voice, body language, and timing inform the tale, making it storytelling rather than a story told. although i enjoyed this romp through his poetical recollections, his stories are meant to be performance art and not really for re
Andrew Hecht
I read this book on a train ride from Melbourne to Sydney. I couldn't sleep and Mr. Gray kept me company in the lounge car. This monologue describes the behind scenes midaventures of Spalding during the filming of The Killing Fields in Thailand. His description of his "displacement of anxiety" theory is enough to make this book worth reading. But his manic storytelling is incredibly riveting and will keep you turning the pages and begging for more.
This is the sort of book that brings you close to the company of the author in a meditative ramble where his life of literature provides ballast to keep the metaphoric (and palindromic) kayak afloat, as he reflects on grief. Not quite memoir, not quite essay, but threads of thought speed along, marked here with a quotation from a philosopher, poet, writer or thought about writing comes along or a flashback, always returning to his beloved daughter, Amy.
Sean Beaudoin
Wow, it was really sad reading this for the first time. Of course, I've seen the movie by Jonathan Demme that is essentially a live reading of this, and I've seen The Killing Fields, the movie Gray had a role in that is the basis of this monologue. Of course, Gray went on to drown himself later and it made for a very melancholy re-engagement with this book, which is a very funny and wise and self-lacerating take on the meaning of all things and nothing.
I really enjoy this story. I had to watch the dvd of Spaulding Gray reading this book a few year ago for a class and loved it so I figured it was time to actually read it. Gray is an amazing storyteller, and his stories really jump off the page. I'd highly recommend this to almost anyone. The way he writes the story is great too because he includes a lot of the historical facts about the occupation of Cambodia and Pol Pot. Great book.
It was on the shelf, and I am trying to clean out the old stuff.. in particular scripts etc.. and it was quick read.

Certainly works better as a performed monologue ( I saw the film version), but Spalding Gray always surprised me and his personal monologues always wound up into perfect well-told stories--not just personal rants as so many others might do.

R.I.P. Spalding. No pun intended but you had vision.
Of course, Spalding Gray's monologues are better seen than read, but reading Swimming to Cambodia is the next best thing. If you are unfamiliar with Spalding Gray, I recommend that you do whatever you can to see Swimming to Cambodia or Gray's Anatomy (not to be confused with the prime time soap opera) as soon as possible. He explains himself better than I could.
I wish I liked Spalding Gray (RIP). I suspect I would have enjoyed him as a person, but as a writer, meh. I think the whole monologue phenomenon gave him a boost he'd never have received as a plain-old writer-- anything is more entertaining when read aloud, and frankly reading his stuff in book form reveals its mediocrity. I think his charm was in his physical presence.
This is an autobiographical collection of a man who is searching for himself. He has a humorous but tedious style of explaining some of adventures. These adventures can be as mundane as getting drunk for the first time or as wild as masturbating into the earth. Lisa gave me this book, and the title essay was very good, but after a couple hundred pages I was tired of it.
My first exposure to Gray was watching the David Byrne movie True Stories, and he just struck me as an interesting individual. I read one other book by Gray (Morning, Noon, and Night) and liked that one a little more, but the style is fairly similar - sometimes insightful, lots of times self-indulgent and hyper-self-analytical, but that's the whole point, I s'pose.
Didn't finish this, not because it's terrible, probably, just couldn't get into it.
Funny and brisk, Spalding Gray's monologue on his time in (mainly) Thailand filming his smallish part of the movie The Killing Fields is entertaining, if slight. I'd like to see the movie of this again, as I feel that it is his personality as much as his humor style that makes this monologue such a classic.
Spaulding Gray (RIP) was a great man. Sitting behind a desk and telling a story for an hour and a half and making it completely captivating is a difficult skill. You should read this but it is more important to see the film and listen to him frantically tell the story.
Re-reading after about 15 years; quite sketchy and not as brilliant as I remember it being. Maybe you need Gray's performing voice in your head while you're reading it for it to really come alive, seems now a little dull on the page. Still a fan of Gray though
Thomas Tsuneta
Re-read this in a day! Hilarious and poignant and a behind the scenes look at his experience making the movie "The Killing Fields". A very unique talent for a thoroughly entertaining Stream of Consciousness!
Like Kurt Vonnegut I find Spalding Gray very hard to follow. And like Vonnegut, Gray has some very important notions. I am very saddened to see that he committed suicide, by drowning, in 2007.
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Spalding Gray was an American actor, screenwriter, performance artist, and playwright.
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“The finished product is a result of a series of organic, creative mistakes--perception itself becoming the editor of the final report.” 2 likes
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