Admittedly, I do not know all that much about Spalding Gray. I know he is deceased and that he did two movies (Swimming to Cambodia and Monster in a Box) that basically consisted of him talking. I saw both movies and still don't feel as though I know that much about him.


 In a bookstore recently, I stumbled across the book version of the movie Monster in a Box. I saw the movie several years ago and remember being quite amused by several passages in the film. I decided to pick up the book and see if the humor worked in print.


The title refers to a manuscript of a novel he was working on. It was in a box he had on the stage and filled up 1800 pages. (Said novel has since been published at considerably less than 1800 pages—Judicious editing, no doubt.) He uses this as a set up for the monologue about all the interruptions that occurred in the writing of the novel.


What follows is an often hilarious misadventure that includes ventures to other countries and a variety of other dilemmas. The biggest obstacle to completing the novel is a bad case of writer's blocks. One of the most hilarious passages in the monologue does involve an accusation that he is actually with the CIA. He notes that to be with the CIA you have to be able to make things up. If he could make things up, he would be able to finish his novel.


 Because the book consists of a monologue that was designed for performance on stage, there is a very fluent quality to the writing. I found that I could hear Gray's voice as I was reading the monologue. I was recalling some of his inflection and facial expressions while reading. This made the read quite enjoyable. The section on a visit to Los Angeles is one of the funniest sections of the book. In Los Angeles, he was attempting to find the fabled few in Hollywood that are not working on a movie script. He runs into busboys, bartenders etc and all seem to be working until they can get there screenplay accepted.


This is a thin book at 81 pages but it is very funny. Gray had the ability to be very plain spoken and direct but his command of the English language is quite good. In reading the book, I was picking up on some sophisticated passages and word plays.


Gray was at his best when he was being irreverent and just tossing out reflections. He was a very adept storyteller that makes me wish we had more writers that were able to perform from a stage and keep an audience entertained. This is an extremely funny piece that I recommend for fans of Gray and for anyone who appreciates an irreverent and witty look at modern American society.

Author's Notes/Comments: 

Initially written as a book review for now defunct website about 12 years ago.

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allets's picture

Kudos To Mssr Gray

He got it publisdhed - slc :D



georgeschaefer's picture

Spalding was an interesting

Spalding was an interesting cat