Gary Indiana’s newest autopsy of America’s walking dead examines the tragicomic fate of la vie boheme when its cherished delusions and brightest hopes succumb to the harsh realities of the aging process.
It is not just that Gary Indiana’s novel, Do Everything in the Dark, is about, or fictively triggered by, old photos (and letters), but that the form the book takes captures this random recall in its ability to fit its pieces together, almost. Is a roman à clef a story told on its head? Or is it merely standing upright, a little off center from the 'real' story it simultaneously cloaks and exposes? ... Indiana’s writing feels like reportage ... Sometimes, this makes for reading that doesn’t immediately engage, but given what it seems Indiana’s commentative purposes often are, this seems 'right' and 'true.' Do Everything in the Dark, however, pushes that style a bit further. Because it is a more personal story, at times it feels more intimate, but this intimacy often creates even more distance than is found in some of his other works ...
Many other aspirants and posers drift through the novel, which, compared to Indiana's earlier work, is surprisingly compassionate and attuned to the inner lives of its characters. There is no shortage of salty observations ('Bruce and Adam used to walk around the neighborhood together, looking inseparable as two vampire bats with their wings intertwined'), but Indiana avoids easy targets and transcends his urge to shock. The result is some of the best prose of his career.
He includes his own story only insofar as it may be an integral part of another’s tale—a device that leaves something of a vacuum in an already fractured narrative, enigma and begging for a hint of transparency that might illuminate the fatal self-destruction he hints at. Indiana’s jump-cut writing style—clipped, clever, filled with knowing cultural references—makes for a quick and snappy read. But it leaves the characters with a certain shallowness that makes it difficult for the reader to connect or care as they struggle with their inner demons ... Adept at describing the internal forces that pull people downward, less so at creating characters whose personalities are more complex than their neuroses.