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IN BRIEF

Non Fiction

March 15, 1992|CHRIS GOODRICH

MONSTER IN A BOX by Spalding Gray (Vintage: $9, paper; 75 pp.). It's all very clear: This book is the written version of a monologue described by the author within the monologue itself as being "about a man who can't write a book about a man who can't take a vacation." Got that? Well, it doesn't really matter, because Spalding Gray's monologues don't have to make sense to be funny--indeed, are funny precisely because they don't make sense. The "Monster in a Box" is the 1,900-page manuscript of a novel that Gray claims to have had difficulty writing, mostly because he claims to be inherently unable to make anything up . . . two statements the reader should take with a few grains of salt. Only a few grains, however, for Gray doesn't need to make things up, not when peculiar things truly do happen to him while conducting research in Nicaragua for a possible movie, showing "Swimming to Cambodia" at a Moscow film festival, attempting to find people in Los Angeles with no connection to the film industry. Like any good storyteller, Gray exaggerates--somehow I don't believe he was thrown out of the Hermitage for "imitating royalty," even if he did roll up his pants legs in order to cool off--but his work is effective mostly because Gray exploits and mocks his celebrity status simultaneously.

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