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swimming to cambodia
Spalding Gray
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swimming to cambodia

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,045 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
With daring virtuosity, writer-actor-performance artist Spalding Gray takes us on an odyssey for our time - a dizzy escapade swerving and plunging between outrageous hilarity and chilling revelation - stretching all the way from Gulf of Siam to poolside Beverly Hills. Inspired by his experiences acting in the Academy Award-winning film The Killing Fields, master storytelle ...more
Published 2007 (first published January 1st 1985)
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Rebecca McNutt
Deeply funny, interesting and well-written, Swimming to Cambodia is a moving and important piece of history.
Jun 20, 2016 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
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Lots of interesting ideas that just don't coalesce very well. I can imagine this being quite a good one-man play, but I don't recommend reading it written down like this.
Apr 16, 2010 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.
Mar 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I adore and miss Spalding Gray. One of my main writing inspirations.
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
Dec 26, 2008 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.
Aug 18, 2008 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!
I'm not sure I reacted to this short monologue as intended. I heard some people say it was funny, but that was not my reaction, although some events could be construed as humorous. Perhaps it is funnier in delivery, and now I feel as though I must see the movie. But for me, I found it a sad insight into the mind of an insecure, troubled actor, as he details his participation in a movie that was powerful and heartbreaking. The book is more focused on off set incidents and life in an exotic shooti ...more
Luke Stone
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anxious, rambling, dark humor that weaves episodes of breathtaking introspection. It's a rare and honest look into a man's greatest trepidations, and concurrently his quest to find that "Perfect Moment" we all want to live, but often don't have cognizance to recognize nor to identify in the deepest recesses of personal reflection.
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thoughtful, honest, kinda funny, just a touch trippy, and organized with its own internal logic that, well - it makes sense when you read it.
There's occasional brilliance in this largely stream-of-consciousness effort. This reminds me of the best of Hunter S. Thompson.
Dec 27, 2012 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
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
Amanda Stecco
May 10, 2016 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
Jul 16, 2007 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
Shawn Persinger
May 23, 2013 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
Jul 07, 2007 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
Kathleen Fowler
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
Aug 09, 2012 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
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.
Aug 11, 2012 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.
Andrew Hecht
Oct 17, 2008 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.
Sean Beaudoin
Feb 24, 2011 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 19, 2008 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.
Liz Lazzara
Mar 15, 2016 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.
Oct 19, 2008 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.
Mar 18, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 16, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
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.
Jun 25, 2007 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.
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Spalding Gray was an American actor, screenwriter, performance artist, and playwright.
More about Spalding Gray...
“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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