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

  • The Night Album

    IF WE LIVE LONG ENOUGH, GRIEF BECOMES A RESURGENT SCAR on the landscape. Death erases parents, friends, and spouses from our maps of the world, desertifying and shrinking the terrain. Even deaths of people we did not particularly like provoke a queasy feeling that our own extinction is rushing toward us, unthinkable and certain.

    We don’t expect to lose our children. That is outside the natural order of things, an affronting foreclosure of possibilities. “To forget the wonder, the terror, the utter finality of this fact, even for a moment, is to experience it again as if for the first time,”

  • 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