Read Impossible Vacation by Spalding Gray Online


Having detailed the agonies of writing a book in his monologue Monster in a Box, Spalding Gray now gives us the monster itself: a convulsively funny, unexpectedly moving novel about a man eternally searching for a moment of protected pleasure even as he is permanently incapable of finding it.Brewster North witnesses his mother's madness but misses her suicide; searches fraHaving detailed the agonies of writing a book in his monologue Monster in a Box, Spalding Gray now gives us the monster itself: a convulsively funny, unexpectedly moving novel about a man eternally searching for a moment of protected pleasure even as he is permanently incapable of finding it.Brewster North witnesses his mother's madness but misses her suicide; searches frantically for enlightenment in the Poconos and zipless sex in India; suffers family ennui in Rhode Island and a nervous breakdown in Amsterdam. In the process he emerges as a hilariously complex everyman. And as Gray narrates his hero's free fall, he confirms his own stature as one of our funniest, most eccentric, and most engaging storytellers....

Title : Impossible Vacation
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780679745235
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 240 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Impossible Vacation Reviews

  • mark monday
    2019-06-12 17:15

    great actor with a sad ending. but honestly this book gave me the creeps. a slow kinda creep, but a creeping creepiness that eventually put me right off the book and the narrator. there's one image in there that stuck with me and I really wish that image would go away. yuck! but I have to admire the honesty on display. ok, one more star for you, why not.

  • Charissa
    2019-05-28 12:14

    I read this book the month I left my ex husband and spent 10 days in Maui with my closest girlfriend at the time, Kendra Brock. It was probably my first exposure to such raw self-reflection and intimate self-exposure, my first creative non-fiction or fictional memoir. I've seen people call Spalding Grey narcissistic... and self absorbed... and adolescent... and hedonistic. Maybe I'm so fond of him because I am all those things, I don't know. I know that I admire his ability to so baldly lay all of his neuroses out there for the world to pick at. To so blithely stroll into his dysfunctional life and conjure out of it a narrative that is at once entertaining, instructive, profound, whimsical, evocative, sophisticated. I was so upset to learn of his suicide. To know he suffered from depression and lost his battle with it ultimately... robbing the world of more of his genius. Well... that just leaves me grieving. Spalding had the great gift of looking into a troubled life and viewing it with a light heart at times... of turning misery into gold... a wry turn of phrase. His descriptions of LSD trips in foreign lands, forays into bi-sexual escapades, mistakes of destroying relationships he cares about... it's a brave man who can really unzip his shell to matter-of-factly tell those tales without trying to make himself look better. Spalding is one of the people in this life I would have liked to sat down to dinner with. I did see him perform "Swimming to Cambodia" live in Everett, Washington (of all places). I shook his hand after and told him how much I admired him. If I'd known he was suffering I might have written to him and let him know what he meant to me before he left this world behind for good. Not that it would have changed anything... but I know that some days... that's all it takes for me to decide I'm not so bad after all. Sometimes all it takes is reading a book like this.

  • Jim
    2019-05-22 08:56

    I miss Spalding Gray and his wasp version of Woody Allen type neurosis.The book is great, but if you can find the audio version with Spalding reading, it's even better. The urgent, crazy energy of this man's performance is absolutely marvelous.

  • Tim
    2019-06-01 10:49

    This is called a novel, but it is more like a series of anecdotes, much like the monologues the author excelled at. It tells the story of one Brewster North, from his late teens to his late thirties, and like the rest of Gray's work, it seems mostly autobiographical. There are many emotionally powerful moments here, scenes that provide insight into American culture and its changes over the years, interesting presentations of family life and life among the Boho set. Gray's conversational style is better suited to storytelling than to prose, but the book is well written. There are moments where I would have liked him to provide more depth or background, but boom, his mind is off like a shot into the next adventure or perception.The book begins with a description of North's middle class Yankee family life as he was growing up in Rhode Island in the 1950s. His mother developed a mental illness when North was a teenager and ultimately committed suicide, and event which haunted him ever since. There is a hilarious, witty description (one of many) of North getting drunk after a girl he has been seeing dumps him because he is unable to have sex with her, then driving to see a production of "The Sea Gull", where he is bitten by the acting bug. North does some acting after college, then moves to New York with his longtime girlfriend Meg in the 1960s. There is an interesting description of a long journey they take to India and Europe in around 1975, including a lovely sojourn to the Himalayas, a visit to Shri Bagwan Rajneesh's ashram, and a long, strange stay in Amsterdam where North has his first gay experience. Upon returning to the U.S., North and Meg visit his father for the bicentennial Independence Day celebration, and this 10 page segment is one of the best satirical descriptions of American life that I have ever seen. North proceeds to exhibit some type of emotional breakdown in which his behavior becomes strange, his drinking increases, and he is unable to motivate himself. Althou it is not clear what happens, he does begin to pull out of it. The book ends with a solo visit to Santa Cruz and its hippie scene, followed by a week in a Las Vegas jail for beating a check. This was an enjoyable and lively book - a portrait of a clever, funny correspondent of the personal and the public, and of American life. I was a big fan, and I was saddened to hear of his tragic death, but he left behind a lot of good work for us to enjoy.

  • Susan (the other Susan)
    2019-05-20 13:06

    If I'd read this for the first time after Gray's suicide, would it have seemed like a giant neon clue? I'm afraid the author's brutal end - brutal to his family, certainly, and himself, and his fans - will forever color his body of work. Gray was all about the impossibility of sustaining happiness, and he seemed to define happiness as the elusive Perfect Moment. I recall an interview in which he explained that he loved to ski fast, and that the speed skier is forced not to THINK "I'm skiing fast" - because in the instant you think it, self-consciousness takes over and you fall... In his novel, the protagonist is forever searching for the Perfect Moment, that thoughtless high, and forever finding disappointment; he's so conscious of trying that he's unable to be in a moment without stepping outside of it to see if it measures up. If you've too often found yourself doing exactly that - evaluating your experience of something wondrous, and thinking, "If only ___ this would be perfect," or even, "This can't last forever," you'll get this book in a way that just might scare the hell out of you.

  • Karen
    2019-05-22 14:17

    Why'd you do it, Spalding Gray? I wish you hadn't. It makes me angry that I'll never read anything new of yours again. And here I am acting like I'm writing to you, not some web site. Look what you've made me do, Spalding Gray. Take a look at me now.

  • Catherine Hewitt
    2019-06-12 13:15

    What a wild ride this book is –and it's not for the prudish or melancholic. The title is apt as the protagonist, Brewster North, tries to find a way to get away from his depression, mania, and neuroses by searching for the perfect vacation. But, as the saying goes, "Wherever you go, there you are." He can't get away from his problems no matter how far he travels. In fact, Brewster spirals into deeper confusion, panic, and anxiety as he travels to India and Europe where he tries to rid himself of his demons through meditation and Eastern religion as well as sex, drugs, and alcohol. His stable and saintly girlfriend, Meg, tries to help him and hangs in there through his manic depressive episodes across several continents. From watching his films Swimming to Cambodia, Monster in a Box, and Gray's Anatomy, I had Gray's voice in my head reading this book to me (and he had a marvelous speaking voice). Similar to his films, the book has a confessional and autobiographical feel and does not spare any details in its highs and lows. I recommend this book for Gray's splendid writing but do not expect to be cheered up by his experiences. If anything, make sure you've got some comedies cued up on your dvr – you're going to need them.

  • Elizabeth
    2019-06-13 14:47

    A few thoughts on Gray's novel, which is the first thing I've read of Spalding Gray's works.I think watching Soderbergh's And Everything is Going Fine was a good intro into Gray's distinctive voice & obsessions. However, many of the stories in Impossible Vacation were touched on in the film.While the story is about Brewster North's travels here in the US & abroad, the abstract idea that eludes him is the ability "to hang out"--a catchall term for being comfortable in the moment.North's interlude w. another man in an Amsterdam bathhouse makes me want to go back & read Matthew's rantings in Nightwood.The ending insight is sad: North has a realization of wholeness yet begins the whole story again, trapped in a loop. Will he be able to reach clarity again? We know the answer from real life.

  • Brittanie
    2019-06-13 08:54

    (8/52 — 2012)I love Spalding Grey and I'm still saddened by his suicide. I've always been a fan of his monologues — this will be the first fiction of his I've read. Just in time for mother's day.Finished it. I pretty much loved it until the very end. Or maybe a few chapters before the very end when it becomes first monotonous and then just falls apart. It's a pretty thinly veiled account of Gray's actual life, from his travels to experimental theater to his work in porn. Speaking of which — there is a lot of sex in this book, which I didn't expect but kind of really loved.Mostly, though, I prefer his monologue work, where he doesn't have to pull some narrative together at the end. Worth a read, for sure, but not his best writing, by far.

  • Anders
    2019-05-18 16:54

    Spalding Gray is the only person I've ever heard of whose art form was the monologue, who can be described as a "monologuist." This is his first and only novel, an autobiographical work executed lucidly and vividly. His knack for storytelling is in full force here, and is a tremendous read. It covers his childhood, mainly his experiences with his mother who suffered from bi-polar disorder and took her own life in 1967, and his subsequent misadventures traveling around the world. While searching for a "real vacation," Gray came to realize that he also suffered from bi-polar disorder, a story made impossibly more sad by the fact of his own eventual suicide in 2004. This book is terrific: evocative, startlingly personal and honest, and completely riveting.

  • Kye Alfred Hillig
    2019-06-03 14:07

    It's crazy to think that this novel was originally 1,900 pages Considering that the finished version was just a little over two hundred. My god, how Spalding goes on a journey. It is like a nonstop slideshow of human suffering, sex, art and spiritual searching. There are so many memorable parts in this book. He and the girl he is cheating on his girlfriend with go and buy strange masks so they can videotape themselves having sex. His nervous breakdown when he is only awake for four hours of the day. His mothers suicide. Trips to India. Weeks in jail making toast with inmates. I never got bored. He really milked this fucker for all he had.

  • Andrea
    2019-05-26 15:17

    This book was beautifully written and while reading it I was sorry I hadn't discovered Spalding Gray before and sorry that he killed himself. I couldn't stop reading because of the way the writing flowed. I admired the unsentimental and realistic way he described the mental illness of the narrator and the narrator's mother. I will go look for more Spalding Gray as soon as I can. The book read like a memoir, though it was classified as a novel. I will have to do more research on Spalding Gray to see if my sense that it is memoir is accurate, or if Spalding Gray is a really good writer.

  • Earle
    2019-06-04 12:00

    A compelling read; reminds me of Kerouac's On The Road but with more drugs, booze and profligate sex. It's particularly enlightening since I've had such a sheltered life, not experiencing any of those things...... okay, but two out of three isn't bad. The main character here is rather pathetic, you want things to turn out with a happy ending, but if this book is autobiographical, then it doesn't.

  • Jenny
    2019-06-12 10:05

    I adored this book mostly because I adore Spalding Gray and his version of eccentricity and mental anguish. Also it's hilariously funny. It's mostly a chronicle of how over a period of time he loses his shit -- it's about his emotional state and I think he does a great job of weaving his internal experience into external events and descriptions. It's told in a very comforting, intimate, storyteller-like voice and I had trouble putting it down. His version of reality is unique and refreshing to me, even though for most of this book his character is an asshole. It's wonderful.

  • Andrew Hecht
    2019-05-21 13:51

    Before you read this book, you have to see Spaulding Gray's monologue, Monster in a Box, which essentially the describes the excruciating process the hypernuerotic Gray went through to write this book.I've been a huge Spauling Gray fan since I discovered Swimming to Cambodia, both the movie and the book. And I consider myself really lucky to have seen him in one of his last performances in New York before he tragically took his own life.

  • Lauren
    2019-05-19 10:57

    spaulding gray(may he rest in peace as he committed suicide last year) was one of the most eccentric and engaging strytellers. i saw him performing live in his one man show 'monster in a box' about 15 years ago. this book was written about an alledgedly fictitious character called brewster north. is brewster really spaulding? i think so. i loved this book as it opens spaulding gray's quirkiness to the public.

  • Tim
    2019-05-20 14:01

    I love this book! I've re-read it like 20 times. Hilarious. I think everyone ought to read it. We have it easy in America, but it is also very empty and confusing too. "The Founding Fathers ruined everything for us when they included the pursuit of happiness in the declaration. Now we are doomed to run forever like race dogs chasing a mechanical rabbit." (my paraphrase). I think he was right.

  • Lauren
    2019-05-23 14:49

    Each of us suffers some kind of malady. But maladies can be okay when they're cherished and strained through the sieve of wandering, impulse and fantasy. It's how Spalding Gray lived, and his is the beatific, fictionalized story told here.I love you, Mr. Gray. You understood madness. I am sorry that you had to leave us early, but thank you for giving us what you did.

  • Mary!
    2019-06-07 13:51

    While I'm a big Spalding Gray fan, this rambling semi-autobiographical piece of complete dreck is one book I'm ashamed to admit I own.

  • Chris Sloyer
    2019-06-09 15:13

    Found a signed copy of this in the used book section at Barnes and Noble. Definitely a funny, crazy book and definitely not for "prudes":)

  • Courtney
    2019-06-09 16:06

    What can I say when a book leaves you speechless? This is pure genius work on these pages. It’s captivating and tugs at your heartstrings And makes you reflect on what you’re doing in life! I am head over heals in love with Impossible Vacation and would recommend it to anyone who is struggling or questioning the meaning of life. Spalding Gray you were an amazing writer and this book is a gift to everyone! Thank you thank you thank you!

  • Linda Murphy
    2019-05-18 10:48

    Very strange and wouldn't waste your time

  • Nada Djordjevich
    2019-05-24 13:53

    Okay, Impossible Vacation doesn't really work as a novel. It reads like one of Gray's monologues. And if you've heard Monster in a Box or Sex and Death at Age 14, then the protagonist, Brewster North, his mother, and his journey, will be familiar to you. That said, it's still a good read. Brewster moves through careers as an actor, a model, a storyteller, and through obsessions on meditation, marijuana, India, acting, porn, sex, and California. At one point, his girlfriend's sister asks him, "Brewster, why do you have to turn everything into shit? Where's your self-esteem?" In Impossible Vacation, Gray reveals the causes and the implications of his hero's immaturity in naked, sad, and funny ways.

  • Snotchocheez
    2019-06-18 14:52

    I'm not sure why I'm drawn to the efforts of literary tortured souls like John Kennedy Toole, David Foster Wallace and the like. Perhaps it's morbid curiosity, perhaps it's just to search for clues as to what the root sources are that caused them to snap. Certainly Spalding Gray would be one of those troubled souls I've had an affinity for. Ever since watching "Swimming to Cambodia" over twenty years ago, I've always had an arms-distance appreciation for his talent. A supremely talented monologuist, Spalding Gray had always seemed to temper his hyper-literate-yet-narcissistic rants with humility and self-abasing humor: it was obvious (just by watching his filmed monologues) that while Mr. Gray possessed incredible talents, he had at his core some serious demons to contend with, and for some reason I'd always connected with that aspect of him. He was able to overcome the demons and create enduring works of art. I'd lost touch with his work for a few decades (perhaps in contending with my own demons) and when I heard that he'd committed suicide shortly after 9/11, it (sadly) wasn't much of a surprise to me.I recall watching his monologue "Monster in a Box" (again, over twenty years ago) and his discussing and dissecting the monster: a 1900-page manuscript for a (what would be his only) novel. I encountered the fruits of his labor at our local library (the 200-page, very unfortunately titled "Impossible Vacation"), and, like a train wreck, just had to take a look-see."Impossible Vacation" is a mess...a compulsively-readable mess of a pseudo-autobiography, but a mess nonetheless. Mr. Gray had a tremendous gift for the spoken word, but in trying to piece together the wreck of his life using a stand-in surrogate (an extremely troubled fellow named Brewster North) in a barely-fictional setting, he mucks up the imagery so bad that the protagonist (in battling his demons, notably his relationship with his Christian Scientist mother, who committed suicide when Brewster was a teenager, much like Spalding's in real life) evolves from a sympathetic character, to one's who's mildly creepy, to one that's just outright SKEEERY (think NAMBLA-icky). There are some genuinely laugh-out-loud funny moments in Brewster's circumnavigational travels to find himself in the wreckage of his life. As the novel limps along, however, and Brewster gets ickier and ickier, the laughs generated catch in the craw, leaving the reader alienated, with a feeling of "Spalding, Spalding, Spalding...what were ya thinking, dude?"

  • Kathleen Fowler
    2019-06-03 11:49

    I have mixed feelings about this book. I love Gray's monologues, and this was essentially the written equivalent. As a matter of fact, those of you who have seen Gray's "Monster in a Box" might be interested to know that this book is that Monster, albeit pared down from its original monstrous 1,900 pages to a more manageable 228. The trouble is that Gray’s material works best when delivered by Gray himself. When he delivers his monologues, the viewer is won over by his considerable charm and intelligence. In Gray’s “absence,” so to speak, one is all too aware of how annoyingly self-centered and self-indulgent this man can be--and there’s no doubt in my mind that the narrator, one Brewster North, is indeed Spalding Gray’s alter-ego. Brewster North is a baby boomer and the product of a privileged, but dysfunctional, family. He is one messed up guy. He aches to experience something real, only to discover that--alas--he seems constitutionally unfit for it. His relationships and everything else he engages in feel like roles he is trying on. He drifts from one place to the next, one person to the next, one experience to the next. He’s an observer and a collector, as opposed to a real participant. He’s always waiting to be swept up into something meaningful, but seems unwilling or unable to be the master of his own fate. He is a narcissist who will never find fulfillment because he views the world and everything in it solely in terms of his own needs and desires. This book made me laugh at times, but it also depressed the hell out of me.

  • Will
    2019-05-21 15:12

    Edition 0-394-56894- X21I began to think that maybe I would like to be an actor. It was not then a need for artistic expression as much as a discovery of a safe place to hide out in a state of controlled drama, knowing what the drama was going to be before stepping into it.45I'd sit in the most delicious of places, the place of greatest hope, the purest, most delicious place of suspended desire and anticipation, that place just before action destroys perfection and leads to the completion of desire and the inevitable corruption and disappointment of consequence.130But I was tortured by this new gnawing dark thought that this had been the history of my life: retreat. I'd never gone after what I wanted, because I'd never trusted that what I wanted was what I wanted.131It never occured to me that by not making a choice, I was about to be acted upon.148I was stuck like some tortured ghost in a self-created limbo between a place I had seen too much of and a place I had never seen.212[re: vegas casino] It was like a big gaudy funeral parlor with a bunch of toys in it.

  • Autumn
    2019-05-31 11:56

    Read this book directly after reading Afterlands and Screwtape Letters, and have decided I need to take a break from neuroses and turn to something a bit more other-oriented. This is my way of apologizing for the 2-star rating.Gray's novel is a thoughtful introspection, it feels like reading a personal journal complete with shame and mother-obsession and all of the other nonsense that Freudian-style psychoanalysis will tell someone is wrong with him. Reading this also said so much about why his manuscript was such a Monster to him...because he is ruminating on his pain rather than exploring his preferred self, which is such a shame because he has such a way of painting a picture with words.Beautiful at times, tragic throughout. Now I've got to go read some Bill Bryson to recover.

  • Laura
    2019-05-29 12:07

    I read this book a while ago for book club. Normally I enjoy a good downward spiral, life spinning out of control, woe is me tale. But this one? Not so much. Why not? I think even the author was disconnected from his narrative. It was all surface and no depth. If I'm going to read about someone else's mental descent into hell, I like to learn something about life while I'm doing it. It doesn't even have to be something uplifting, it can just be a little instruction about why life is hell and how much other people suck and how nothing will ever get better. But this story gave me nothing. Bottom line reason I might tell my enemy to read this book? I couldn't even recommend this particular read to my worst enemy.

  • LB Deyo
    2019-05-25 12:07

    I've been a Spalding Gray fan for more than twenty years. I consider him to have been a near-genius. Swimming to Cambodia is one of my favorite films of all time. So it was with the fondest anticipation that I picked up his novel Impossible Vacation. Unfortunately, it was an almost incredibly terrible book. One of the worst I've ever read cover-to-cover, which I did only out of my devotion for the author. It was rambling, sentimental, lugubrious, and vapid; everything, in short, that his best onstage work was not. My advice to anyone who wants to appreciate Gray as he deserves to be remembered is to retreat from this book and head straight for the video store.

  • Aaron
    2019-06-01 12:01

    I'm on a kick to re-read famed and dearly departed monologist Spalding Gray's entire oeuvre and I started with his one piece of "fiction." Of course, practically nothing in the book is fiction. It displays all of Gray's usual strengths -- amazingly original observations that veer between laugh-out-loud hilarious and achingly sad and depressing. It also features Gray's usual weaknesses: it goes on too long and the ending is kind of a dud. Still, this almost 20-year old novel has held up well and remains a great read.