A brief guide to Indiana

Gary Indiana's latest book, Utopia's Debris, feels fresh, but it's hardly an isolated effort-it's part of a sustained career that has produced a number of sharp-witted gems. Here, we take a brief tour of selected works.

This week’s author profile focuses on Gary Indiana, the stunning writer and thinker whose latest book, Utopia’s Debris, unleashes 36 essays at topics ranging from Arnold Schwarzenegger (“Kindergarten Governor”) to Valley of the Dolls author Jacqueline Susann. The book feels fresh, but it’s hardly an isolated effort—it’s part of a sustained career that has produced a number of sharp-witted gems, both novels and nonfiction. Joan Didion argued in Slouching Towards Bethlehem that “a writer is always selling someone out.” This is somewhat true of Indiana’s work, with its scalpel-like prose and laser-eyed analyses. But there’s a deep humor here too, and a mournfulness that makes him far more complicated and more rewarding than a mere takedown artist. Here, we take a brief tour of selected works.

Horse Crazy (Grove Press, 1989, out of print)
Indiana’s debut novel is an ’80s East Village classic, featuring a narrator who writes arts criticism for a newsweekly (Indiana himself was the head arts critic for The Village Voice from ’85 through ’88), and who falls for a younger man who is attractive, manipulative and entirely unattainable. The portrait of how HIV first affected NYC’s gay community is unforgettable. And the narrator’s failed love occasions fiery character analysis—of both the pursuer and the pursued.

Gone Tomorrow (Serpent’s Tail, 1993)
Loosely following the structure of a Joseph Conrad novel, Gone Tomorrow opens in 1991, as a jaded actor drinks at the Chelsea Hotel Bar and reflects back on multiple betrayals at a hedonistic film shoot in early-’80s Columbia, and then brings us to the AIDS-decimated bohemia of his present. Somberness, wit, insanity and anger mingle to create an deeply insightful yet emotional book, an argument for living even in the midst of horrifying events.

Let It Bleed (Serpent’s Tail, 1996)
Indiana’s first book of essays gives his inimitable takes on the 1992 presidential primaries, the pornography industry and Branson, Missouri, as well as masterful reviews of Herv Guibert, Gilbert and George, Mary McCarthy, and more.

Resentment (Doubleday, 1997)
This L.A.-set novel, which nods to the Menendez brothers murder case, caused a bit of an uproar with its slightly roman--clef cast (characters resembling Dominick Dunne, Kathy Acker and Hilton Als come off as particularly buffoonish). With its turbocharged belicosity, this book shows Indiana at his most sarcastic and hilarious, but its moments of sheer brilliance are occasionally lost in overwriting.

Three Month Fever (HarperCollins, 1999)
The author’s nonfiction book on Versace killer Andrew Cunanan has to make some imaginative leaps, but as the narrative attempts to capture the murderer’s charisma, aimlessness and band of horrible friends, Indiana finds something much more revealing than any true-crime book could have drudged up.

Depraved Indifference (HarperCollins, 2001)
The final installment of Indiana’s American-crime trilogy is a novel that opens with the life-flashing-before-your-eyes thoughts of a dying real-estate mogul, and then moves on to his sociopathic widow, who, with her son, concocts a disturbing scheme involving an elderly Manhattan woman, identity theft and a taser. Like a particularly virulent strain from The Grifters, this book captures the art of screwing people over (or murdering them) with unflinching grace.

Do Everything in the Dark (St. Martin’s, 2003)
Indiana’s best novel so far is a mournful and sardonic series of portraits showing the friendships and falling-outs among a loosely connected group of Bohemians.

The elements of bile Gary Indiana slices through the cultural dreck.»