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It's a Slippery Slope
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It's a Slippery Slope

by Spalding Gray
 

Within a year, the familiar boundaries of Spalding Gray's existence have been altered by betrayal, love, lust and loss. He suddenly marries his longtime companion, and divorces her just as quickly; he moves in with his girlfriend, Kathie, who bears him a son; and he learns, against all odds, to ski. But not even his mastery of the much-feared right turn can prepare

Overview

Within a year, the familiar boundaries of Spalding Gray's existence have been altered by betrayal, love, lust and loss. He suddenly marries his longtime companion, and divorces her just as quickly; he moves in with his girlfriend, Kathie, who bears him a son; and he learns, against all odds, to ski. But not even his mastery of the much-feared right turn can prepare him for the exhilarating experience of fatherhood. A brilliant improvisation with as many twists and turns as a double-diamond course, It's a Slippery Slope explores how one man survives a mid-life crisis by finding his balance on skis.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“The grand master of the first-person singular ... Skiing is definitely a Gray area.” —Peter Marks, The New York Times

“Spalding Gray may be the nation's most outstanding storyteller. Nothing eludes his eye or the sureness of his satire. The secret of his success is the skewed angle of vision--his eccentric wit and ruthless candor.” —Los Angeles Times

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In Swimming to Cambodia, Gray wove his insights on war into his account of the making of The Killing Fields; in Gray's Anatomy, his thoughts on the body and dying were linked with his search for a cure to his eye trouble. It was during the tour for Gray's Anatomy that he discovered the vehicle for this monologueskiing. But the real issues here are commonplace human crises: adultery, separation, fatherhood. Rene Shafransky was Gray's longtime collaborator, manager, director and, for 17 years, his girlfriend. The two had settled into an unofficially open relationship, but one of Gray's affairs, with a woman named Kathie, lasted a couple of years, and continued even after Gray and Shafransky married. Several months later, Kathie announced she was pregnant. Shafransky, thwarted in her own desire to have a child, was distraught and left Gray; eventually, Gray ends up with Kathie and their new son. Gray says that "telling a life was so much easier than living one." Easier, perhaps, but not easy. Despite his avowal that he no longer feels quite like the New England puritan, he's still uncomfortable talking about such intimate stuff, and resorts to clichs and dopey jargonfunctional, nonfunctional, healthy boundaries, arrested development and "inner kid." He even admits it: "There, I've said it, `fusion', the word that has a ring of popular psychobabble." His accounts of learning to ski are, by contrast, marked by his usual perceptiveness, elegance, humor and emotional precision. Gray had first come to acting because, "I thought, I could live a passionate life onstage without consequences." This is a portrait of a man in the painful process of being disabused. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Gray is our premier monologist, best known for Swimming to Cambodia (Theatre Communications, 1988) and Gray's Anatomy (Vintage, 1994). He is to drama what the confessional poet is to poetry; but his writing is much more precise than most confessional poets, and he has a liberating sense of amused bemusement about himself too often lacking in most modern poetry. Though not a play exactly (the author is writing deep autobiography here and then performing it himself on stage), this piece does have a three-act play structure. The outer two units are about the exterior life and learning to ski and to love its freedom and risk, hence "slippery slope." The center of the piece is also about freedom and risk, but it is inner and personal in an honest and painful way, chronicling marriage, divorce, and fatherhood. Gray has a gift for being directly in touch with his subconscious, with little censor function to cloud his vision. The hilarity and joyousness of the beginning and end is exactly countered by the seriousness and terror of the middle. Highly recommended.Thomas E. Luddy, Salem State Coll., Mass.
Kirkus Reviews
An avalanche of shallow solipsisms as the veteran monologist takes to the slopes and learns to ski.

Artists who plumb their lives for their work run the grave risk of using up all their best material and being reduced to diary trivialities and fire-sale reminiscences. Gray (Impossible Vacation, 1992, etc.) has seemed to be headed in this direction for a while; now he is finally there. He tries to freight everything with meaning—weighing skiing down with a series of pompous metaphors about existence—but this only amplifies the base banalities that threaten at every turn. "In order to be in control, you have to be out of control. . . . It's the first leap of faith that I've ever had in my life." As he stumbles along, he tries to drag in his mother's suicide, his unexpected fatherhood, and the breakup of his long-term relationship/marriage. The descriptions of this last item are as painful as any skiing injury, as Gray alternates self-justifying contrition with the kind of analysis you'd expect from a third-rate shrink. After he fathers a child with the "other woman" and his marriage disintegrates, Gray has an epiphany on the slopes that is almost startling in its egocentrism and moral obtuseness: "I thought I was going to self-destruct and instead I helped bring new life into the world. I gave myself a big high five, and I thought, You know, I've returned to New England and I'm no longer a puritan." The monologue style, with its frequent repetitions and digressions, makes all this even more awkward. What may work well before an audience just seems uncontrolled on paper.

This snow job should shake the devotion of even Gray's most steadfast fans.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374525231
Publisher:
Farrar, Strauss & Giroux-3pl
Publication date:
09/30/1997
Pages:
112
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.27(d)

Meet the Author


Writer and actor Spalding Gray was best known for writing and starring in autobiographical monologues like Swimming to Cambodia, Monster in a Box, and It's a Slippery Slope where he humorously integrated his anxieties and experiences into stage performances. He was a co-founder of the Wooster Theatre Group in New York City and also appeared in films such as The Killing Field and Kate & Leopold.

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