slouching towards new york: gary indiana channels joan didion & w.s. burroughs

Sections of Gary Indiana’s novel Do Everything in the Dark read as assemblages of the styles and techniques of Indiana’s novelistic contemporaries and immediate forebears; the section below owes its descriptive power to William Burroughs’ vision of mankind as an amoral mutation, with its content arranged after the manner of Joan Didion’s demure cataloging of the American grotesque.  


Something was taking its vile course.

I felt it in waves, in my sleep, when I woke.

I replaced the air conditioner. I got a haircut.

What news? I asked my demon. What news? What now?

It rippled the air as I walked down the Bowery to Leon Ivray’s loft.

In the waning light, rainbow-skulled couples morphed into Micronesian cannibals. Tin ornaments and tattoos skewed flesh into mosaic dreamscapes. Weirdly angled dormitories, thrown up like mineralized shark fins over the parking lots where Joel Rifkin, mousy thrill killer, used to strangle prostitutes before taking their corpses for joyrides in his panelled truck. The buildings spewed a continuous stream of dewy cutenesses, cell phones sprouting from their ears. These podlike mammals draped themselves in product logos and designer alphabets, like free-ranging billboards. Men wearing sandwich boards used to roam sidewalks as ambulating publicity Now millions did it for free, like serfs declaring fealty to corporate gods. All right. Something vile was taking its course.

Did I really want to scream into those moist rodent faces, HOW FUCKING SOLD OUT CAN YOU BE? IS IT A COMPE­TITION? No. If I opened my mouth to scream, a blast of silence would fill my head and a moray eel I mistook for my tongue would slither out. People were turning into things, had already turned into things. Electric wires and plastic organs grew inside their bodies. If you sliced them open with a scalpel, you’d un­cover a factory of blue winking lights and cathode tubes and microchips and fiber optic cables fused with scattered organic matter.

This is how it was, or how I was, that summer: I wanted to accept the world in its true condition, as it hurtled to its stony end. To meet it on its own filthy terms. Even force some plea­sure out of it, though I couldn’t. I did not believe that Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders, Greenpeace, or the Nature Conser­vancy could rescue this lemming species and its cell phones. I wrote checks to these organizations as a futile, half-assed ges­ture. It was too late, too late, too late.

Office workers moved in zigguratpatterns toward the black cube in Astor Place, sucked into the subway like lint gobbled by a vacuum cleaner. Ruminant tourists dreamed of killing and dismemberment. Sleepwalkers armed with credit cards spilled along the sidewalks, filling outdoor tables of fifth-rate pizzerias and bistros–the East Village’s Kmart parody of Montmartre. In the gray innards of a rockabilly joint, its facade open to the street, a band tuned its instruments, squawking feedback into the hum and gurgle of deaf automatons. A crackle of incipient mayhem strafed the area as the summer twilight blackened into night. The Bowery was a treadmill for exhibitionists and the criminally insane.

Sky, clotted clouds. As I reach Leon’s corner, the tempera­ture spills down, the clouds rip apart. Rain rakes the side­walk, just enough to wilt my clothes. Then it falls hard, soaking me as I wait for Leon’s sluggish new elevator to reach the lobby Through the wire mesh in the street door windows, I watch the elevator numbers light and fade, stalling at each digit long enough for thirty people to load the elevator with furniture.

— from Gary Indiana, Do Everything in the Dark




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