The University of Texas' Ransom Center has acquired the archive of writer, monologuist and actor Spalding Gray, the center said Monday.
Gray is perhaps best known for his monologue "Swimming to Cambodia," based on his experiences in Southeast Asia while acting in a small part in the 1984 movie "The Killing Fields." Gray's quirky story, which he read from a spiral notebook while seated at a simple table on stage, became a critically acclaimed movie in 1987 and ushered in the popularity of a style of autobiographical storytelling in which the line between private life and public performance display is not just erased but celebrated.
The archive, valued at $595,000, is partially a donation by Gray's widow, Kathleen Russo, and partially a purchase by the Ransom Center, which paid $250,000. The gift portion of the collection is valued at $345,000.
Included in the material at the Ransom Center are more than 100 of Gray's private journals, as well as more than 90 performance notebooks.
Like his monologues, which skidded between philosophical musings and entertaining absurdities, his notebook writings seem to have no apparent self-censorship.
"Get it together Spalding," Gray writes in red capital letters in one performance notebook for "Swimming to Cambodia." "I cannot get in an honest place unless I am alone," he writes in a 1990 notebook.
"He writes about sex, death, drugs and love with honesty and humor," said Helen Adair , associate curator of performing arts at the Ransom Center. "His voice is clear, and he appears to have no filter. Everything is written down without shame. Like his performances, it is powerful because it is so personal."
Gray, who suffered from depression throughout his life, died of an apparent suicide in 2004 at age 62; his body was discovered in New York's East River nearly two months after he disappeared. A car crash in 2001 in Ireland left him with a brain injury that exacerbated his depression — circumstances that he inevitably dealt with publicly.
Also included in the archive are more than 150 audio cassette tapes and 120 VHS tapes of Gray's performances, interviews and appearances.
Born in Rhode Island to what he characterized as a staunch Christian Science family, Gray settled in New York in the 1960s, where he became a co-founder of the noted avant-garde theater troupe the Wooster Group and where he first began to perform his monologues. Although his work garnered attention within the theater community, it was the Jonathan Demme -directed film of "Swimming to Cambodia" that brought Gray more widespread recognition.
Steven Soderbergh's biopic about Gray, "And Everything Is Going Fine," screened at this year's South by Southwest Film Festival.