Charissa's Reviews > Impossible Vacation

Impossible Vacation by Spalding Gray
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Mar 08, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: literature, non-fic
Recommended to Charissa by: Kendra Brock-Cipollina
Recommended for: neurotics, depressives, creative madmen and women
Read in May, 1994

I read this book the month I left my ex husband and spent 10 days in Maui with my closest girlfriend at the time, Kendra Brock. It was probably my first exposure to such raw self-reflection and intimate self-exposure, my first creative non-fiction or fictional memoir. I've seen people call Spalding Grey narcissistic... and self absorbed... and adolescent... and hedonistic. Maybe I'm so fond of him because I am all those things, I don't know. I know that I admire his ability to so baldly lay all of his neuroses out there for the world to pick at. To so blithely stroll into his dysfunctional life and conjure out of it a narrative that is at once entertaining, instructive, profound, whimsical, evocative, sophisticated. I was so upset to learn of his suicide. To know he suffered from depression and lost his battle with it ultimately... robbing the world of more of his genius. Well... that just leaves me grieving. Spalding had the great gift of looking into a troubled life and viewing it with a light heart at times... of turning misery into gold... a wry turn of phrase. His descriptions of LSD trips in foreign lands, forays into bi-sexual escapades, mistakes of destroying relationships he cares about... it's a brave man who can really unzip his shell to matter-of-factly tell those tales without trying to make himself look better. Spalding is one of the people in this life I would have liked to sat down to dinner with. I did see him perform "Swimming to Cambodia" live in Everett, Washington (of all places). I shook his hand after and told him how much I admired him. If I'd known he was suffering I might have written to him and let him know what he meant to me before he left this world behind for good. Not that it would have changed anything... but I know that some days... that's all it takes for me to decide I'm not so bad after all. Sometimes all it takes is reading a book like this.
10 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Impossible Vacation.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

02/13/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant You probably read this a while ago but I'd like to request a little tiny review of it! 5 stars for the monster in the box?!

Charissa here ya go Paul. I dunno if that;s what you were after, but there it is. 4 stars for Monster in a Box... 5 for Swimming to Cambodia. Spalding was a Prince of New England.

message 3: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant Great review, many thanks. It rocked me too, when I found out. I thought he was famous enough for his death to have been reported but I must have missed it if they did. My favourite English folk singer also committed suicide and profoundly shocked me - that was back in 1991. Some artists you know as well as you know your friends, more so sometimes, or so it seems. With some artists it's personal. Their voices blend into your thoughts forever.

message 4: by Dottie (new)

Dottie Gray's suicide was reported but not shouted -- as usual it seemed it skimmed under the noise radar - I have to remedy my lack of reading of Gray's work. I can't recall what had him on my own radar that I actually heard/read the reports of his death, but I do need to read this one and perhaps others. Charissa -- wonderful review.

message 5: by Ruth (new) - added it

Ruth I'm so out of touch I didn't even know there were books. I've seen Gray in performance and absolutely loved it. So funny, so ascerbic, so right.

message 6: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant Although don't read him until you've seen the three monologue movies. I'm assuming you have already!

message 7: by Ruth (new) - added it

Ruth I have.

message 8: by RandomAnthony (last edited Mar 09, 2008 07:46PM) (new)

RandomAnthony I've read all the monologues but never read "Impossible Vacation." Maybe I'll check it out. I still have a playing card somewhere from when I saw him live and he used a deck of cards in a monologue (I forget which one...something about buying a house, I think...) as a prop, tossing the cards in the audience.

Charissa I am amazed I didn't hear about Spalding's death when it happened... especially in the SF Bay Area, I think he has quite a following here. But maybe the family tried to keep it quiet.

Why did you say to watch all the movies before reading him Paul? Just curious.

message 10: by David (new) - rated it 1 star

David Although I disagree completely in my evaluation of the book, I still enjoyed your review very much. Thanks!

Charissa Thanks David, I appreciate you saying so. **

message 12: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant I think Spalding's genius was in the monologues, it's unique, you have to catch all his inflections, expressions, quizzical eyebrow raisings, sudden hysteria, etc etc - so that's why you need to see the three monologue movies first. Spalding Gray lives! Swimming to Cambodia, Monster in a Box, Gray's Anatomy!

Charissa It's true... if you have seen him perform his voice comes through so perfectly when you read his writing... it definitely adds to the entire experience. After that he will live in your head forever!

message 14: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant Charissa, are you up very late?? Should you be going to bed now??

Charissa I got bitten by a swarm of ants while bucking hay bales in my back yard today. I slept for 3 hours in the middle of the day after that, now I'm all awake. I am in bed... got my laptop and my cats... it's close to 3am though, so it may be time to turn out the lights and hope sleep comes soon. Otherwise I'll be good for nothin tomorrow!

message 16: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant I never bucked a hay bale in my life. Nor do I ever expect to. And none of my friends and relations buck hay bales neither. We're all city boys and girls. It's a different world. But I have seen an ant once or twice.

Charissa You don't know what you're missing until you buck a hay bale. Actually, all the romance has gone out of bucking hay bales. There's hardly anything but a jaded and cynical hay bale around left to buck. And, worse, they tend to buck back. Very embarrassing.

okay... clearly i've not had enough sleep... back to zzzzzzzzz.....

back to top