Monster in a Box

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Vintage Books treats readers to this published edition of MONSTER IN A BOX, a monologue that performance artist Spalding Gray began developing onstage in late 1990. The story evolved, as Gray so humorously dictates, from his traumatic experiences of writer’s block during his struggles to produce a novel he contracted for with Knopf.

His unfinished novel, IMPOSSIBLE VACATION, has already reached nineteen hundred pages—yet Gray insists that he cannot write. Distractions, which he describes in great detail, abound. He is accepted to a prestigious writer’s colony tucked away in the woods of New Hampshire, only to find that the quiet there, and the expectations the colony has of its guests, removes for him all hope of concentration. Luckily, he is called away to begin a period of residency with the Mark Taper Forum Theater in Los Angeles, where he desperately engages in an almost impossible quest to find people who are not writing a Hollywood script. Gray’s LA stories are hysterically funny; he even has the fortune (more fortunate for the readers, though) of experiencing an earthquake.

On a brief visit to New York City, Gray and his girlfriend Renee become convinced that they have AIDS. Gray refuses to get tested for the virus for fear of knowing for sure that he will die. His already-neurotic mental state is compounded as he attempts to find a therapist he can trust.

The beauty of MONSTER IN A BOX lies in Gray’s detailed descriptions and exaggerations of his travels and encounters. From the psychological breakdown of his roommate in Nicaragua, to the “Boomerang Chicken” he is fed in Leningrad, to the accounts of spaceship/ET sightings he is privy to in Los Angeles, to the theater critics’ haranguing of Gray’s role in a Broadway production of Thornton Wilder’s OUR TOWN, MONSTER IN A BOX is pure entertainment.