Nell Casey, Editor

Knopf, $28.95, 340 pages

Tempting as it can be to read someone else’s diary, it’s mostly frowned upon. Fears, insecurities, judgements, hates and loves are written down and then locked away. That’s usually for the best, but in the case of The Journals of Spalding Gray, one can’t help but wonder if he wrote them so that one day he would be better understood by his family, friends and fans. Spalding Gray acted in theater and films but was best known for his monologues, particularly, Swimming to Cambodia. Sitting on stage with just a table and glass of water, he would confess the intimate details of his life with unhesitating self-awareness and in a deliciously self-deprecating fashion. Sex and death were two prominent themes. His incredible genius for storytelling had an honesty and rawness that resonated deep within the souls of his ardent fans. Essentially, he turned his life into art and that came with a price. Spalding Gray committed suicide in 2004 after suffering from depression most of his life. These riveting and sometimes heartbreaking journals, which begin in the sixties and run up until his death, are both a gift and a farewell note to his fans.

Diane Prokop