Gary Indiana

  • Killing Time

    “Sometimes I joke, well, I must be really good,” says Gary Indiana, sweet and wry, lighting his third cigarette of the four he allows himself daily. “To have been such a fucked-up mess, and to still have a body of work that I think—I hope—will live after me, that means I must really have been good.” We are outside Lucien, the Lower East Side bistro, after our interview, during which he did not swear at all. I note this because in his memoir, I Can Give You Anything But Love, out last year, he complains that one young interviewer added obscenities to his answers to make him sound edgier. As if

  • The Last Waltz

    STEFAN ZWEIG was a popular writer from the outset of his career. He instinctively wrote the kind of thing that appeals to a lot of people: a reliable entertainer. Not a line-for-line, impeccable stylist (one reads much of Zweig mentally crossing out adjectives), not a hundred-watt intellectual writer (though a fairly unobjectionable interpreter and simplifier of other people’s ideas, cf. Nietzsche), nor a philosophically appealing writer (“humanism”of the Zweig variety and canned pork are roughly equivalent products, to my mind), but a writer who spins tales that convincingly describe emotionally

  • Parade’s End

    In several recent novels the succinct, startling prose of Jean Echenoz has achieved the condition of a highly durable, transparent membrane, something like the trompe l’oeil mesh often used now to mask scaffolding on building facades under repair. Imposing a Beckettian principle that drastically less is immensely more, Echenoz summons a fulsome picture of his characters and their worlds with a scattering of surgically exact, granular details both irreproachably veracious and wildly defamiliarizing, such as the swarm of mosquitoes that attacks the protagonist of I’m Gone (1999) as his dogsled

  • Cast in Doubt

    RENATA ADLER’S NEWLY REISSUED NOVELS, Speedboat (1976) and Pitch Dark (1983), consist of anecdotes, vignettes, jokes, aphorisms, epigrammatic asides, and longer passages of prose—eclectic inventories of consciousness. Their immediate effect is that of a flea market in Samarqand or Ouagadougou, where the items on display (vintage clothes, military decorations, photo albums, broken appliances) are fractionally different enough, in style and provenance, from their cousins at the local swap meet to look like artifacts of an alternate universe. Adler’s eye and ear for the peculiar are unmatched in

  • Missive Impossible

    The Letters of Samuel Beckett, 1941–1956, volume 2 of a projected four-part compendium, is an endless Chinese banquet at which all but the most determined gourmands are likely to feel stuffed somewhere between the crispy pig ears and the thousand-year eggs: Some may thrill to the hairpin turns and daredevil high jinks involved in the translation of Molloy from French into English, but many with more than a glancing interest in Beckett may find by page 200 or so that his correspondence and its staggeringly detailed footnotes have, to torture a phrase from Jane Austen, delighted them quite enough

  • The Night Album

    This week, the editors of Artforum and Bookforum remember Joan Didion, the peerless American novelist and essayist. Her canonical work was capped in 2011 by the memoir Blue Nights, which Gary Indiana considered for Bookforum alongside Susan Jacoby’s Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age. His essay is an uncompromising polemic about aging and death—and why we shouldn’t look away.

    In 2005, Joan Didion watched her thirty-nine-year-old daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne, succumb to a terrifying sudden illness. The shock of this loss—less than two years after Didion’s husband John

  • Making Our Mark

    Laura Trombley’s Mark Twain’s Other Woman and Michael Shelden’s Mark Twain: Man in White are remarkably absent any close study of the literary works of Mark Twain, concerned as they are with the last decade or so in the life of a writer whose important books had been written very previously. Twain’s major project between 1900 and 1910 was the burnishing of his public image; as his every sneeze, utterance, and physical movement from one location to another was clocked for posterity by the world press, typically in banner headlines, the historically ill informed could easily conclude that the


    In October 1980, the Czech astronomer Z. Vávrová of the Klet’ Observatory at Ceske Budejovice discovered planet number 03479, a celestial body the size of a large asteroid, in the nether reaches of the cosmos. The astronomer named it after his favorite writer, Curzio Malaparte. A literary homage drifting in outer space would have appealed to a writer who inhabited an unclassifiable planet of his own, a writer known for ingenious deceptions, morbid hilarity, and what one might call heartfelt insincerity.

    However engaged he became in the splendors and miseries of the sad century he lived in,