The debut novel of Renée Shafransky — a surprise No. 1 on Amazon’s Literature & Fiction best-sellers list — appears to be a revenge fantasy by a woman scorned.
Shafransky was the wife of the late monologist Spalding Gray and produced his one-man performance film “Swimming to Cambodia” before he left her for Kathleen Russo, with whom he had two children before he committed suicide in 2004.
In the book “Tips for Living,” the protagonist Nora discovers her husband, Hugh, has gotten another woman pregnant, and leaves him and New York City to live in a small resort town. Then Hugh and his new family move into a house nearby.
“Renée is a lovely person whom Spalding treated terribly,” a friend told me. “The novel is a roman à clef about what happened with her and Spalding — right down to Spalding and his new girlfriend moving to Sag Harbor after she did.”
In addition to being a novelist, Shafransky is also a psychotherapist in New York City and Sag Harbor, and her agent Lucy Childs told me: “As all novelists do, she took a kernel of truth from her life.”
But Childs said the book and Shafransky’s life are “not at all the same. They have nothing to do with each other.”
As for the fictional Hugh, “He’s not Spalding Gray by any means,” Childs said.