Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Truth About Spalding Gray -- Revealed At Last Here At Cliffie's Notes

There's an article in the current New Yorker by Oliver Sacks about the decline and fall of Spalding Gray, the comedian who leaped off the Staten Island ferry in 2010 after years of struggling with suicidal urges.  The author of the article, being who he is, started out looking at this event in neurological terms, but this apparently ended in frustration for him. 

(I have read some of this guy's books and I can't help but notice...did you notice this?...He only seems to write about cases when he can't make heads or tails of them.  His conclusion is always something to the effect of "there must have been disease or degeneration of this or that area of the brain, because we know that specific area governs this or that area of function.  Nothing you can do about it, sorry."  This happens so often that I kind of wonder how effective he is at his job.  He must see hundreds of cases we'll never hear about, and maybe he clears up all their problems in a week, but..?)

Neurology having failed him as always, Sacks falls back on his next line of defense, the literary approach.  Now this is a MUCH better way to go at it.  The Shaved Monkey psyche, once you scratch the surface, is a morass of half-digested hallucinations, loopy ideas, rationalizations for same, and crazily-embroidered emotions the Shaved Monkey can't manage...at least without getting arrested.  In Naked Ape literature this steaming mess coalesces beautifully into the actions of what they call "archetypes," acting in familiar patterns to resolve whatever the trouble is, allowing the ape reading it to breathe a sigh of relief as they read.  As the archetypes interact, order is being restored, balance is being re-established.  Very often the landscum reader will identify with one of those archetypes and feel vindicated if the interaction comes out in that story character's favor, or chastened if the opposite occurs. 

In this case Sacks drew on this Ibsen play:

The good doctor draws a parallel between the central character in this play, Ellida, whose mother was insane, and Spalding Gray.  Ellida lived in a lighthouse, and became consumed with thoughts of the sea and a man who embodied everything about the sea to her.  Leaving the lighthouse eventually drove her mad.  Spalding Gray had a seriously mentally ill mother who killed herself, and from the time he sold his own house, he was consumed with thoughts of his mother and with mental images of water, which to him symbolized being with her again.  As time passed it was harder and harder for him to stay away from the water and after several false starts, he finally flung himself into the ocean on January 10, 2010.  That is not a time of year most Shaved Monkeys can dive into Long Island Sound and emerge feeling well and refreshed.  Even a Walrus needs to brace herself against that kind of chill, as we all know.  So we see immediately that Gray, drawn into the sea like a Lemming, is indeed living out his own version of Ellida's story. 

And YOU AND I can also easily see that Gray acted out the age-old story, EONS OLDER THAN IBSEN, of entering the sea forever to meet his destiny.  Did I mention that on January 10th, just before getting on the ferry, Gray took his children to a movie?  What movie, you ask?  It was Big Fish!  Sacks says Gray didn't leave a suicide note, but come on, man, he did so; IT'S OBVIOUS.   The title of the movie said it all.

To quote Ibsen's play, "all the force of the sea is in this man."  And finally, he could no longer deny that force.  Neurology doesn't enter into it.  When Dagon calls, you gotta go.

The landscum's loss is OUR GAIN.  He dwells in wonder and glory forever with Dagon.


Blogger Ur-spo said...

this was marvelous.
thank you for posting it.

BTW - synchronicity is afoot - this is what I am seeing this summer in canada -


9:35 PM  

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