Though he writes fiction (e.g., Gone Tomorrow, LJ 3/1/93), Indiana is probably more widely known as a frequent contributor to the Village Voice. As cultural commentator, he certainly does not hesitate to offer opinions about a culture he appears generally to abhor. His piece on Euro Disney is so savage and self-indulgent that it elicits sympathy for the megabillion-dollar Disney company, which takes a real flair for nastiness. He despises the faux country and western temples of Branson, Missouri, not just for its horrible architecture but because most of the visitors are, in his eyes, obese. Of course, Indiana also does politics, and his coverage of the 1992 primary in his home state, New Hampshire, yields the information that Pat Buchanan is not tolerant. Still, Indiana can sustain profundity, as in his series of dispatches from the second Rodney King beating trial. He checks his ego, reporting impressions so meticulously that he captures not only the main players' personalities but also Los Angeles's. The balance of this work is given over to art literature and film reviews that lack the low-road, dead-on intensity of Indiana's "on the scene" journalism. Despite his reputation, this work is recommended only for public and academic libraries that have made popular culture a budget priority.-Scott H. Silverman, Bryn Mawr Coll. Lib., Pa.
Novelist Indiana (Gone Tomorrow, 1993, etc.) offers his often spleenful commentary on a variety of political, artistic, and social topics in this collection drawn from the Village Voice and other publications.
The most scathing of Indiana's essays tend to have the most entertaining moments. His opening salvo, an excoriation of his home state of New Hampshire on the occasion of its 1992 presidential primary, manages to be hilarious while spraying astonishing quantities of bile: "Those for whom `Live Free or Die' has traditionally meant dropping out of 10th grade and heading straight for . . . [the] shoe shops, Raytheon, or the mills, feel such depths of cultural inferiority that truly abusive public figures often resonate more winningly with them than reformers and do-gooders." An insightful piece on the assisted-suicide trial of Dr. Jack Kevorkian puts the case's moral ambiguities in the context of its truly distasteful cast of characters; "The Sex Factory" successfully delves into the romanceless banality of the porno film industry; and the poetic, fragmented "Death Notices" captures movingly the horror and grief of AIDS over a decade in the urban arts community. But Indiana's Gonzo Lite pilgrimages to Euro Disney and to Branson, Mo., where he smirks at the double-knits and double chins of Middle American tourists, produce no insights that Hunter S. Thompson didn't have two and a half decades ago (in fact, Thompson's shadow falls over much of the material here). The occasional essays that pad the collectionbook, movie, and art reviewstend toward a generic snappiness, always smart but lacking the individuality of Indiana's first-person reporting. But the controversy over Richard Serra's hideous public sculpture, Tilted Arc, inspires a very funny discussion of censorship and artistic quality.
Highly competent, frequently entertaining pieces, but they don't add up to a work of substance.