Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Monster in a Box" is a book manuscript (like mine)

On Dec. 17, 1996, I carried a book manuscript into the HR office, in a box, and as I sat down, she asked “What’s in the box?”  Well, the line “What’s in the basket?” occurs in the 1982 comedy “Basket Case”, and the monster is the deformed Siamese brother of a young man carrying him around (I remember seeing that at the Inwood in Dallas). But the “Monster in a Box” is Spalding Gray’s 2000 page novel “Impossible Vacation” – and he has a “real” publisher, Knopf.  My own “monster” was a double-columned manuscript of “Do Ask Do Tell”.  

Gray, right off the bat, has some interesting perspectives on the mentality of “the writer”.  He has written the manuscript in cursive longhand, and had it typed; no computers or Microsoft Word (not the case for me).   He’s an aficionado of Thorton Wilder and “Our Town” (read in every high school), which gives him a key into acting and stage management, diverting him from writing.  He says he was accused of acting condescending to both the audience and the people in The Town.  He talks about the connection between Emily’s funeral in the last act of the play and the closure from his own Mother’s death.  “The dead don’t stay interested in us living for very long.”

It’s rather brash to call 87 minutes of a self-indulgent man talking (in a comedy club), seated at a table no less, a movie, especially from an innovative studio, New Line (and Image). But the 1992 film is directed and itself stage-managed by Nick Broomfield.  Gray  even gets up and stands from the table late in the film. He covers his legs with long johns. That’s when he’s talking about his visit to the Russian Ark (itself a film), the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.

Don’t forget other films in related titles, like Richard Kelly’s “The Box”, or the 1986 spoof, “Monster in the Closet”.

The film bears comparison to the dinner conversation film “My Dinner with Andre” and Gray’s earlier monologue “Swimming to Cambodia” (to be reviewed later).  His monologue here even reminds me of Kate Clinton.  Where’s Barton Fink?


Our Town” is discussed on the Drama Blog, June 13, 2007.

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