I had to admit I didn’t play him as often as I expected to — not least because almost anybody else in the room would go batshit within 30 seconds when I did. I treasure my vintage Theoretical Girls 45. I heartily endorse Lesson No. 1 for newcomers and for established fans, I must note that I played this record as often as any:
Another point is that only one artist can do the counterfeit-bills-are-art routine, or at least only one artist can make it his primary bit and become quasi-famous. Boggs lived at the right time to make this work. And, hell, I think his art did provoke interesting questions. But I bet a lot of the time him using his artworks as money got him called a motherbucker.
I love it when you can feel, with the author, that the train is on the tracks and running free.
A harrowing, tragic story. The films of Gray’s solo performances like Swimming to Cambodia and Monster in a Box are marvelous, but cannot touch the experience of seeing him live.
Now, I am not a fan of stand-up comedy in clubs (and I enjoy precious few examples on TV). So when I was told the act we were about to see, called Interviewing the Audience, was just a guy sitting at a desk with a notebook, a glass of water, and a microphone, I was “That’s IT?!?! How can that be more entertaining than a lecture?”
But a half-hour in, I was entranced. Gray was not merely crazy-funny or an expert storyteller, he was an irresistible reader of the moment, the audience mood and a weaver of words and ideas that always threatened to fly out of control but never did quite (“TV/Christian Science … TV/Christian Science … TV/Christian Science”). You wanted him to go on like a jazz improviser who can’t miss on an endless solo — picking over the exact content would be as unsatisfying as transcribing the solo. We were all on a wild ride and didn’t know who was at the wheel or even if there was a wheel. (The only serious competition Gray has, according to me, is my friend Josh Kornbluth.)
The one later time I saw Gray live was his initial rendition of Travels Through New England. It was more a work-in-progress, but with hefty passages of the same careening magic. I always wondered what would become of Gray in the long run — it was an exhausting, half-terrifying way to make a living and deep down I sensed how fragile it all was. I was in the early years of coping with my mother’s growing depression and grappling with Gray’s own demons along with him was superb catharsis.
My eyes welled up and I sobbed out loud when I found out what had happened to him. Sacks does his usual masterful job of evoking a person (the Ibsen play insight is amazing), which compounds the pain because he himself is terminally ill.
Like they say, a must-read.