Indiana, Gary 1950–
Indiana, Gary 1950–
PERSONAL: Born in 1950, in Derry, NH; son of a lumber company owner and a town clerk. Education: Attended University of California at Berkeley. Religion: "I was brought up half Catholic and half atheist. So I'm a little bit of both."
CAREER: Writer, essayist, and novelist. Worked variously at a succession of jobs, including in an insurance firm, a plastic surgery clinic, a psychiatric hospital, and selling popcorn in a theater. Legal Aid, Los Angeles, volunteer, c. 1970s; produced and directed plays, including Red Tide, Phantoms of Louisiana, and The Dark Side of Anne Flaubert, 1978–85; actor and playwright; Village Voice, New York, NY, senior art critic, 1985–88.
Scar Tissue (stories), Calamus (New York, NY), 1987.
White Trash Boulevard (stories), Hanuman (Madras, India), 1988.
Horse Crazy (novel), Grove Press (New York, NY), 1988.
Gone Tomorrow (novel), Pantheon (New York, NY), 1993.
Rent Boy (novel), High Risk Books/Serpent's Tail (New York, NY), 1994.
Resentment: A Comedy, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1997.
Depraved Indifference, HarperCollins Publishers (New York, NY), 2001.
Do Everything in the Dark, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Roberto Juarez (nonfiction), Bellport Press (New York, NY), 1986.
(Editor) Living with the Animals, Faber (Winchester, MA), 1994.
Let It Bleed: Essays, 1985–1995, High Risk Books/Serpent's Tail (New York, NY), 1996.
Three Month Fever: The Andrew Cunanan Story, Cliff St. Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Saló, or the 120 Days of Sodom, British Film Institute (London, England), 2000.
Schwarzeneggar Syndrome: Politics and Celebrity in the Age of Contempt, New Press (New York, NY), 2005.
Also author of the plays Alligator Girls Go to College, produced in New York City at the Mudd Club, 1979, The Roman Polanski Story, 1982, and Roy Cohn/Jack Smith. Contributor of essays to books, including Hybrid Neutral: Modes of Abstraction and the Social, Independent Curators Incorporated (New York, NY), 1988. Contributor of art criticism to periodicals, including Art in America, Artforum, and Village Voice.
SIDELIGHTS: Gary Indiana wields the written word like a freshly sharpened knife, poking fun at the world and often drawing blood. "I do think people should be able to laugh at themselves and other people and laugh at the great joke we're living in," the pseudonymous author revealed in an interview with Jonathan Bing for Publishers Weekly. "My tendency as a writer is to amplify the negative."
Indiana's earliest writing efforts reflect his years in the theater, on and off stage. He wrote two plays produced in small New York City venues: Alligator Girls Go to College and The Roman Polanski Story. Moving on to a job as senior art critic for the Village Voice, Indiana launched a flow of biting essays and stories examining the art scene and the world beyond. Let It Bleed: Essays, 1985–1995 collects Indiana's essays from 1985 to 1995, many of which originally appeared in the Village Voice. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the set "funny, smart, mean, self-examined," finding that "Indiana's vicious descriptions are on the mark."
In Let It Bleed, Indiana takes jabs at everything from Euro Disney to the 1992 presidential primaries to country music fans in Branson, Missouri. "As cultural commentator," pointed out Library Journal writer Scott H. Silverman, "he certainly does not hesitate to offer opinions about a culture he appears generally to abhor." The art, literature, and film reviews that fill out the book come off as somewhat limp compared to the "dead-on intensity" of the other essays, Silverman maintained. Less impressed with the book on the whole was a Kirkus Reviews critic, who believed that the essays are "highly competent, frequently entertaining pieces, but they don't add up to a work of substance." "One is tempted to call Indiana's style 'scathing' or 'deadpan,' but it has more dimensions than that," added Jonathan Taylor in the Nation.
At the same time he was casting a critical eye at the popular culture around him, Indiana was prolifically creating his own reality, beginning with two collections of short stories: Scar Tissue and White Trash Boulevard. Albert Mobilio, writing about Scar Tissue in the Voice Literary Supplement, stated: "Indiana's unevenness is a fault but also the condition of the scene he wants to document."
Horse Crazy, published in 1988, was Indiana's first novel, which a Publishers Weekly contributor called "superbly wrought." The book's narrator is an arts columnist in love with a manipulative younger man. "In theory," explained Adam Mars-Jones in the Times Literary Supplement, "Horse Crazy is a narrative of obsession, but the forward drive of the story is often interrupted." The diary-like feel of Horse Crazy, Mars-Jones maintained, "encourages the writer to judge other people by their actions, himself by his intentions, and to put his unfailing promise against their meagre achievement." "While interesting as a study of obsession," allowed Lawrence Rungren in the Library Journal, "the novel falls short when Indiana makes the dramatic situation double as social commentary."
Indiana's 1993 book Gone Tomorrow is written as two novellas linked by the narrators who reminisce about a common friend, a gay filmmaker who has just died as the book opens. "Death, violence, hedonism—and their physical and psychological consequences—are Gary Indiana's ambitious themes," proclaimed Aamer Hussein in the Times Literary Supplement. A Publishers Weekly reviewer found Gone Tomorrow to be an "intelligent, evocative treatment of an all too timely and difficult subject." Library Journal contributor David Bartholomew noted that "Indiana is daring, both in the oddly forceful convention-breaking structure of the narrative and in the horrific excesses of his mostly unlikable characters." Geraldine Brennan concluded in the Observer that "Indiana's waspishly funny Gone Tomorrow is full of narcissistic neurotics worth running under a bus to avoid."
Lance Olsen, in the Review of Contemporary Fiction, called Indiana's 1994 novel Rent Boy "a kind of gay Bright Lights, Big City" that delivers "a bitter indictment of profit-addiction that darts at the core of the American psyche" through another first-person narrator, a young New York City hustler. In an interview with Adam Platt of Harper's Bazaar, Indiana acknowledged that the idea behind Rent Boy "is that everyone is guilty of everything, which of course isn't an original idea." Sarah Schulman, writing in the Advocate, saw evidence of Indiana's personal struggle between the lines of his "succulent trash for people in the know." Schulman observed that "sometimes, Indiana hides behind the voice of the bitter old queen until his natural fury cracks the veneer and he is revealed as someone who really cares."
Resentment: A Comedy, published in 1997, matches Indiana's other books in its "unremitting, sometimes wearying cynicism," stated a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Loosely based on the Menendez brothers' trial, the book follows a jaded gay journalist, whose adventures supplement the bizarre events that unfold in the courtroom. "Resentment, though slow in some court scenes, is a brilliant glimpse beyond the news cameras and headlines," raved Anthony Duignan-Cabrera in People. "Perversity abounds" appraised Karen Angel in the New York Times Book Review. Indiana's "snide satire," she wrote, stars a "Los Angeles blighted by anomie, egotism and opportunism."
Depraved Indifference, published in 2001, resonates with the real-life tale of Sante and Kenneth Kimes, an incestuous mother-and-son team of con artists and grifters who were convicted of killing an elderly New York woman in an attempt to take over her Upper East Side townhouse. Evangeline Sloate is a charming and buxom Liz Taylor lookalike who, along with her husband Warren, perpetrated an escalating series of cons and crimes throughout their life together. Upon Warren's death, son Devin joined in her illegal activity and became her incestuous lover. The two hatched a scheme to take over the valuable New York townhouse of wealthy socialite Wanda "Baby" Claymore. Successful completion of the scheme will require Claymore's death. The novel "sets its sights on exposing both the 'depraved indifference' of the Sloates and the larger society that breeds and abets them," observed the Library Journal contributor Lawrence Rungren. The book contains "flashes of brilliance," commented Marshall Moore in the Lambda Book Report. "Indiana has a brutally accurate eye and a gift for articulate scorn. The characters are interesting and memorable, even if we only get obscene Polaroid pictures of them. When Indiana chooses to package his black humor coherently," Moore concluded, "nobody does it better." Booklist reviewer Connie Fletcher called the novel "repellant and fascinating," while a Publishers Weekly critic labeled it "a hyperkinetic depiction of unbridled greed." A Kirkus Reviews contributor remarked that Indiana's "dashing prose sweeps the reader along to a climax that is no less compelling for being inevitable."
Do Everything in the Dark, Indiana's 2003 novel, examines "an aging group of New York artists and intelligentsia," the result of which is that "Indiana has created perhaps his darkest and bleakest human portrait to date," observed Michael G. Cornelius in the Lambda Book Report. Indiana establishes himself as a character within the narrative, serving as the observer and chronicler of the lives and dissipations of the group of friends that serve as his characters. Once bright and full of life, the group reacts poorly when their fortunes begin to slide and age mounts its inexorable campaign against them. Arthur is a man in his fifties who is seriously considering leaving his needy and parasitic lover of more than two decades. Denise and Caroline are a lesbian couple who cannot seem to settle down. Jesse is an actor who needs time to recover from an unspecified ailment. Miles is a director whose better days and choicest projects are behind him. The characters exist in their own secluded, shallow world, barely aware of anything that occurs in the world that does not have a direct impact on their own mean and meager lives. In the end, the death of one of the narrator's friends brings them all together and provides some hope that they will begin to see outside their individual existences. Dissolution and ennui are strong forces, however, and in Indiana's world, it is doubtful that his characters will be able to overcome the gravity of inactivity and selfishness. Indiana is "adept at describing the internal forces that pull people downward, less so at creating characters whose personalities are more complex then their neuroses," commented a Kirkus Reviews critic. Reviewer John Mitzel, writing in the Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, called the book "a dark, funny, and mature novel from a seasoned witness to Americans' foibles of the past thirty years."
Indiana turns once again to nonfiction with Three Month Fever: The Andrew Cunanan Story, an account of Cunanan's 1997 killing spree that left five men dead, including famed designer Gianni Versace, and Cunanan himself a suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. In describing Cunanan's descent from intelligent, gregarious charmer to serial killer, Indiana departs from traditional journalistic style in imagining and creating plausible but unverifiable montages of internal monologues, personal motivations, and individual contradictions. "The cumulative effect of this approach is powerful, not only de-mystifying the media's monster, but also humanizing him," observed Alistair McCartney in the Lambda Book Report. Indiana describes Cunanan's childhood in a Filipino-Italian family and how he grew up and "assumed the mantle of precocious sophisticate, dressing beautifully and kicking up a fuss at other kids' houses because they didn't have any Perrier," noted Alex Clark, reviewing the book in the Guardian. He tells of how the gay Cunanan became a sort of chameleon, constantly redefining his identity until the real Cunanan was often obscured. He also relates how Cunanan was a consistent companion for many older, wealthy gay men who kept him in fine style, and how his demeanor began to slide toward the murderous each time one of his deceptive personality tweaks was discovered or when a lover tired of his petulance and incessant demands. Indiana also uses the book to level further cultural criticism at America, wondering why the rich and famous Versace was "assassinated" while Cunanan's other victims were "killed" or "murdered." Indiana concludes that it is yet another manifestation of the public's fascination with celebrities and the media's willingness to pander to that lowest-common-denominator taste. Indiana's "real story, and strength, is his analysis of the hysterical, wildly inaccurate media coverage of the case," noted a Publishers Weekly critic. Clark called Three Month Fever an "intensely imagined, provocative, and daring book," and noted that Indiana's writing style revealed that "a formidable intelligence is at work behind the emotional intensity of the prose."
In Schwarzeneggar Syndrome: Politics and Celebrity in the Age of Contempt, Indiana offers "a window into what's wrong with California politics and American society in general," commented a reviewer in the Reference & Research Book News. Film Comment contributor J. Hoberman called the book a "deadly serious and laugh-out-loud rant" against American, and particularly Californian, politics.
"I'm basically somebody who sees the world as a comedy," Indiana revealed to Publishers Weekly interviewer Bing. "We live in a world of rampant hypocrisy where people never say what they think, they never say what their real opinion is in public. They never divulge just how much they resent other people, how much they envy, how much they despise."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Advocate, July 22, 1997, Sarah Schulman, review of Resentment, p. 63; April 13, 1999, David Bahr, review of Three Month Fever: The Andrew Cunanan Story, p. 77; February 19, 2002, David Bahr, "Irreconcilable Indifference; Gary Indiana Talks about Taking His Cues from True Crime in Writing His Mordant New Novel, Depraved Indifference," interview with Gary Indiana, p. 66.
Book, January-February, 2002, Tom LeClair, review of Depraved Indifference, p. 69.
Booklist, March 15, 1999, Ray Olson, review of Three Month Fever, p. 1258; December 15, 2001, Connie Fletcher, review of Depraved Indifference, p. 706.
Film Comment, May-June, 2005, J. Hoberman, review of Schwarzeneggar Syndrome, p. 28.
Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, September-October, 2004, John Mitzel, review of Do Everything in the Dark, p. 42.
Guardian (London, England), September 11, 1999, "Saturday Review: Books: Celebrity Slaughter: Want to be Famous for Fifteen Minutes? You Only Need a Gun, Finds Alex Clark," review of Three Month Fever, p. 9; February 19, 2000, Garth Cartwright, "Books: Paperbacks: The King of Blood and Mischief: A Life in Writing: Gary Indiana Tells Garth Cartwright Why He Likes to Shock Middle America," p. 11.
Harper's Bazaar, July 1997, Adam Platt, "Gary Goes West," p. 50.
Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television, August, 2002, Giacomo Lichtner, review of Saló, or The 120 Days of Sodom, p. 383.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 1993, review of Gone Tomorrow, p. 12; October 15, 1993, review of Rent Boy, p. 1288; April 1, 1996, review of Let It Bleed, p. 505; June 1, 1997, review of Resentment, p. 824; November 1, 2001, review of Depraved Indifference, p. 1508; April 1, 2003, review of Do Everything in the Dark, p. 496.
Lambda Book Report, June, 1999, Alistair McCartney, review of Three Month Fever, p. 21; February, 2000, Philip Clark, review of Three Month Fever, p. 30; February, 2002, Marshall Moore, review of Depraved Indifference, p. 23; May, 2004, Michael G. Cornelius, review of Do Everything in the Dark, p. 38.
Library Journal, May 15, 1989, Lawrence Rungren, review of Horse Crazy, p. 89; March 1, 1993, David Bartholomew, review of Gone Tomorrow, p. 107; April 15, 1996, Scott H. Silverman, review of Let It Bleed, p. 109; June 15, 1997, Lawrence Rungren, review of Resentment, p. 97; January, 2002, Lawrence Rungren, review of Depraved Indifference, p. 152; April 15, 2003, Joanna Burkhardt, review of Do Everything in the Dark, p. 122.
Los Angeles Times, February 10, 2002, Jonathan Levi, review of Depraved Indifference, p. R4.
Nation, October 21, 1996, Jonathan Taylor, review of Let It Bleed, p. 31.
New Statesman & Society, November 19, 1993, Laurence O'Toole, review of Gone Tomorrow, p. 46.
New York Law Journal, December 5, 2002, Joan Ullman, review of Depraved Indifference, p. 2.
New York Times Book Review, September 21, 1997, Karen Angel, review of Resentment, p. 25; May 23, 1999, James Poniewozik, review of Three Month Fever, p. 22.
People Weekly, September 29, 1997, Anthony Duignan-Cabrera, review of Resentment, p. 40.
Publishers Weekly, March 17, 1989, Sybil Steinberg, review of Horse Crazy, p. 78; January 18, 1993, review of Gone Tomorrow, p. 449; November 22, 1993, review of Rent Boy, p. 60; March 18, 1996, review of Let It Bleed, p. 62; May 19, 1997, review of Resentment, p. 63; July 7, 1997, Jonathan Bing, "Gary Indiana: It's a Rancorous Life," interview with Gary Indiana, p. 42; March 1, 1999, review of Three Month Fever, p. 52; November 19, 2001, review of Depraved Indifference, p. 48.
Reference & Research Book News, August, 2005, review of Schwarzeneggar Syndrome, p. 70.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, summer, 1994, Lance Olsen, review of Rent Boy, p. 213.
Spectator, July 30, 2005, Frederic Raphael, review of Schwarzeneggar Syndrome, p. 30.
Time, April 5, 1999, Jesse Birnbaum, review of Three Month Fever, p. 78.
Times Literary Supplement, November 16, 1990, Adam Mars-Jones, review of Horse Crazy, p. 1232; November 19, 1993, Aamer Hussein, review of Gone Tomorrow, p. 23.
Village Voice Literary Supplement, February, 1988, review of Scar Tissue, p. 4.
Washington Post, February 3, 2002, Daniel Woodrell, review of Depraved Indifference, p. T07.
Advocate Web site, http://www.advocate.com/ (February 6, 2006), David Bahr, "Urban Nonlegends," review of Do Everything in the Dark.
British Film Institute Web site, http://www.bfi.org.uk/ (February 6, 2006), interview with Gary Indiana.
Crescent Blues Web site, http://www.cresentblu8es.com/ (February 6, 2006), H. Turnip Smith, review of Three Month Fever.
Gay Today Web site, http://gaytoday.badpuppy.com/ (February 6, 2006), Jesse Monteagudo, review of Three Month Fever.
Los Angeles City Beat Web site, http://www.lacitybeat.com/ (January 10, 2006), Dean Kuipers, interview with Gary Indiana.