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Swimming to Cambodia
Spalding Gray
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Swimming to Cambodia

4.11  ·  Rating Details  ·  984 Ratings  ·  65 Reviews
"It took courage to do what Spalding did--courage to make theatre so naked and unadorned, to expose himself in this way and fight the demons in public. In doing so, he entered our hearts--my heart--because he made his struggle my struggle. His life became my life."--Eric Bogosian

"Virtuosic. A master writer, reporter, comic and playwright. Spalding Gray is a sit-down monolo
Paperback, 44 pages
Published April 1st 2007 by Dramatic Pub. (first published January 1st 1985)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,658)
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Jun 20, 2016 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn't really know who Spalding Gray was before reading this, don't even know how this appeared on my bookshelf, but I'm so glad I read it. It's basically an epic stream of consciousness (but in the oral storyteller kind of way, not Ulysses) and touches on everything from Gray's OCD (which he writes about hilariously and painfully) to the unreality of filming The Killing Fields, to searching for a Perfect Moment before allowing himself to leave a country.

It made me want to (try to) write some
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
Apr 16, 2010 notgettingenough rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humour
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 it was amazing  ·  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.
Amanda Stecco
May 17, 2016 Amanda Stecco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comedy-memoirs
I read a lot of mixed reviews on this. I picked this up somewhere random, probably a sidewalk (I do this often), and had tried to read it once before during school but I just wasn't paying enough attention and it didn't interest me much. I decided to give it one more try and I'm so glad I did.

He manages to take you through so many different parts of his life in such a short time, and it's fascinating how he organizes his thoughts. I was completely enthralled the whole time and can't wait to wat
Aug 18, 2008 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Haven't read it. If I love it as much as I love the movie...well I'll love it!
Mar 09, 2011 Brittanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I adore and miss Spalding Gray. One of my main writing inspirations.
Liz Lazzara
Mar 15, 2016 Liz Lazzara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always loved Spaulding Grey's performances, and reading this one was almost like an audiobook -- I could hear his voice and inflection in my head, as I think you're meant to. You ought to watch him perform first, and then read the transcript, because the performance is far better. This is not to say I didn't enjoy the book. It's beautiful and worth of reading. But Spaulding Grey is a performer, and without the A/V aspects, it's just not the same.
Jan 01, 2016 Irene rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I gave this book a 2 because I went into it not really knowing what to expect so it kind of threw me off and made it harder for me to get into the work. I think a reader coming into this book with a little more knowledge or appreciation for Spalding and his style would get more out of it. Still an interesting read though and it is always good to be introduced to something new.
Dec 27, 2012 Aaron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Brian Yatman
Dec 21, 2015 Brian Yatman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Goes down real easy. Spalding's writing is a treat. He was so neurotic and self-absorbed but so funny with it, and he really lived a life. A messy life, but so interesting.
Aug 19, 2014 Wendy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 16, 2007 Mary! rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 19, 2016 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting, humorous, informative, self-examining social commentary. This guy could tell a descriptive story!
May 15, 2015 T. rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What a disappointment! Especially since someone once suggested that I would connect with this. Waste of time, ugh!
Shawn Persinger
May 23, 2013 Shawn Persinger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 27, 2016 Terry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Extremely interesting. Now want to rewatch the killing fields
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
Sep 13, 2007 Cheri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama-american
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
Mar 25, 2013 Kevin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, humor
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
Oct 17, 2008 Andrew Hecht rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 11, 2012 Kitty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 24, 2011 Sean Beaudoin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 21, 2008 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 22, 2016 Jordan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars. Absolutely in love with this written monologue, but the live performance is even better.
Jun 27, 2007 Cody rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Oct 19, 2008 Alex rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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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