by Gary Indiana (2003)
Gary Indiana‘s Do Everything in the Dark, divulges the inner turmoil of New York’s avant garde from a bygone era. They face old age and irrelevance; a justifiable fear considering I had no idea what real life figures of the city’s bohemian past most of the characters were based on – with the exception of Susan Sontag (and only that because I read so).
The often hilarious book reminds me of Slaves of New York by Tama Janowitz and the awesome Answered Prayers by Truman Capote. Like those authors, Indiana makes the best kind of storyteller – he can give vivid, sharp, witty, and sometimes harsh portraits of the vain, eccentric, insane, self absorbed and nasty artists, wanna be artists and hangers on that are interesting to hear about but not so much to be friends with ourselves.
Not that Indiana is all venom. With exceptions, he genuinely loves his subjects, who are after all, his dearest friends and in turn we love them too – at least some of them. I was most taken with the letter exchanges between Arthur, stuck among society vultures on a Spanish Island and Jesse, whoring it up with busboys in Istanbul.
Other characters I found less intriguing like a couple of young good looking junkies – but if ever you find yourself bored one moment, Indiana ping pongs the story around frequently.
The novel, which was written after 9/11 but clearly and deliberately depicting a pre-9/11 New York is in turns raunchy, touching, and clever. There were so many perfectly worded lines that I wish I’d kept a highlighter on me while reading. I didn’t, but here’s on example:
“I know you’ve blown a junkie or two along the trail; if you’ve blown one you really have blown them all. I’d rather eat ice cream. You can have that engraved on my tombstone if I happen to go first”
I am surprised his work hasn’t found a larger audience among the young and hip trying to live their own Bohemia (though this time in condos).