Indiana’s sixth outing (after Depraved Indifference, 2001) explores the damaged psyches of a group of artists, all on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
The web of characters here—actors, playwrights, authors, painters, as well as their loved ones—have all met with some degree of success. That is to say, also, that they have met with some degree of failure, increasingly so as the years go on. Depression, anxiety, restlessness, and lingering resentment have brought most of them to a state of paralysis, where their creative efforts and romantic liaisons have begun to putrefy. These are ills that can be cured neither by therapy nor heroin, sex nor travel. At the center of the coterie is Indiana himself, recounting everyone else’s stories as an admittedly unreliable narrator, staying put in New York as the others disappear around the world, only to return. 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.