Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Spring 2011 Newsletter

Recent Acquisitions: Spalding Gray

Cassette tapes. Click to enlarge.

Audio cassette and video cassette tapes from the Spalding Gray archive. The archive contains more than 150 audio tapes and more than 120 VHS tapes.

Notebook page. Click to enlarge.

First page of Spalding Gray's performance notebook for Swimming to Cambodia. This notebook features Ronald McDonald on the cover, and Gray is seen using this notebook in his performance of Swimming to Cambodia in the 1987 film by Jonathan Demme.

The Ransom Center has acquired the archive of noted author, performer, and actor Spalding Gray (1941-2004), who is best known as the creator and performer of autobiographical monologues such as Swimming to Cambodia (1985) and Monster in a Box (1992). The extensive archive traces Gray's career and personal life over more than four decades.

The collection includes more than 90 handwritten performance notebooks that served as templates for Gray's live performances. The notebooks are heavily revised and annotated, demonstrating the development of Gray's most significant pieces. Gray continually expanded and revised his monologues based on audience reception and his own changing needs as a performer, and nearly all of the notebooks contain additional handwritten pages inserted by Gray.

The collection also includes over 100 private journals. These are largely diaristic, filled with witty asides detailing everyday experiences, pages of philosophical reflection, dream records, and Gray's examination of his own moral nature. Together, the performance notebooks and private journals provide insight into how Gray's works were drawn from his most intimate and personal reflections on his daily experiences.

The collection contains other unpublished writing, including short stories, plays, and poems. Substantial audio and video materials, including 150 audio tapes and over 120 VHS tapes, will allow scholars and students to trace the evolution of Gray's work in front of an audience, the arena for which he was best known. The archive also includes an extensive collection of personal correspondence.

Gray's life and work were the focus of Steven Soderbergh's 2010 documentary film And Everything Is Going Fine. A portion of this archive was generously donated to the Ransom Center by Gray's widow, Kathleen Russo.

Other recent acquisitions include:

- Jorge Luis Borges's handwritten manuscript about William Blake.

- A collection of more than 250 letters written by Bernard Malamud to his literary agent, which include a number of typescripts and story fragments.

- The first draft of Oscar Saul's screenplay of A Streetcar Named Desire, which is marked throughout with Tennessee Williams's handwritten revisions.

- The library of literary critic Hugh Kenner, a gift from Mary Ann Kenner.

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