Indiana uber alles
by Roberto Friedman
I Can Give You Anything But Love is the just-published memoir from novelist, playwright, critic, artist and all-around caustic wit Gary Indiana (Rizzoli). If you know his work, you know you're in for a bumpy ride in this life story, from his childhood in New Hampshire, where he is hazed at a lake; to 1970s San Francisco, where he is raped by a Hell's Angel; to LA, where he has a car crash on the freeway that he's lucky to have survived; on through subsequent legendary status in underground NYC and years-long spells of exile in Havana. There's a lot of wreckage on display here, both human and otherwise, but the writing is sheer pleasure.
Indiana (nee Hoisington) on visiting his LA speed dealer: "Stepping into his living room was like entering the scrambled brain of a serial killer through a portal of used motor oil." On dipping into a gay bar in Venice, CA: "Cruising guys dart at their intended prey in brusque strides, venture a few hurried words, speed to their next prospect when deflected. It's as if the lugubrious, defensive ritual of snuffling for cock has been revamped as a wacky, tacky afternoon game show."
Along the way we meet some famous figures, literary and other, as seen through the gelid Indiana lens. "David Lynch had the inbred assurance of an upper-middle-class Eagle Scout, a wide-eyed, impervious optimism that only needed a dusting of freckles and a few amphetamines to turn him into Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz."
On erstwhile friend Susan Sontag : "She was unflaggingly rude to waiters, cab drivers, hotel clerks. After she was recognized by a diner cashier we'd bought sandwiches from, her displeasure was frightening. 'He only knew who I was because he saw me on television,' she said disgustedly, as if unmasking a former concentration camp guard."
He's unafraid to strip the pantheon of their laurels. On Ernest Hemingway: "Time has peeled away the testosterone facial mask of this endlessly posturing, preening, pathetic cheerleader of the bullring and killer of elephants and tigers, revealing a callow sissy whom his transgendered son didn't hesitate to address as 'her.'"
But Indiana is no less forthright about his own shortcomings. Our favorite parts of the book are his honest accounts of unequal relationships with hustlers, the longueurs of expat life in Cuba, run-ins with immigration authorities. No one writes quite like he does, but his life echoes the experiences of many. We're all suffering under the postmodern indignities of Very Late Capitalism.
This might just be Gary's much-deserved moment in the sun. Semiotext(e) is reissuing his three great novels based on true crime stories: Resentment, Three Month Fever and Depraved Indifference. Itna Press has a new edition of Do Everything in the Dark and will reissue Rent Boy. That these gems, and his first novel Horse Crazy, have gone out of print is a literary crime. Gary Indiana writes the forensic reports on our murdered society.
Truth be told, the San Francisco Symphony opening gala is always Out There's favorite event of the year. Music critic Philip Campbell describes last Thursday night's concert in this issue. We accompanied him to the event, managed to step on the train of another young woman's dress as she clogged the aisle of premium orchestra (it's getting to be a syndrome), schmoozed it up with pressies in the green room, boozed it up in the party tent. It's really a most civilized affair, and the outdoor set-up of the afterparty was perfect for the still-summery fall equinox. Ever the dipsomaniac, OT was among the wrecked revelers who closed down the party, but then had only half-a-block to roll on home. The cup has been drained. The party favors have been dispensed. The tux has been returned to the closet. Now bring on the symphony season!