Do Everything in the Dark

Do Everything in the Dark



The Pequod Review:

Gary Indiana's 2003 novel Do Everything in the Dark traces the troubled lives of a group of aging writers and artists living in early 2000s New York City. The narrative is fractured and episodic — and it takes awhile for many of the characters to develop — but over time it strikes a cynical but yet empathetic tone, as the characters' mixed successes lead them to develop deep neuroses, insecurities and addictions as they reach middle age.

Indiana writes sharper sentences than almost any other modern novelist:

Boredom can be viewed as a kind of fossil fuel, poured into inertia and ignited with fabulous results, but I am skeptical of this view, which reeks of unempirical optimism. We were excited for a while by drugs and sex, sometimes by escape from stultifying provincial childhoods, by ideological manias that were in the wind, by Che Guevara and Mao’s Little Red Book, by Rolfing massage and Maharishi meditation, by rock and roll, punk rock, hip-hop, marketing brainstorms, junk bonds, liver transplants, by ever-refined electronic gadgets that seemed to afford some control over the gathering chaos. But eventually everything new became a short-lived palliative for the fatal gash of boredom. We began manufacturing problems that sounded deeper, worthier of analysis, than the Oblomov syndrome produced by getting older in an age when everybody had seen too much by the time they were thirty-five.


Denise and Caroline fled New York in the fourth year of their ménage, in search of an ideal desert anachronism where the utopian eccentricities of earlier times didn’t scrape against the metal teeth of electronic living. Santa Fe seemed to fit the bill, for the first week or two...

Caroline’s classes attracted the insecure, unbeautiful, shyly affectionate types who responded gratefully to nurturing and sometimes even learned to write interesting things. Denise’s drew impossible kamikazes destined to drop out after first year, returning in irregular semesters from near-death adventures to chalk up a few more grade points. But those audacious fetuses, as Denise called them, were the very ones who risked disaster and came back with something real to write about. Denise hated teaching. Her deranged students were its sole reward, and hardly worth it in the end, she thought.


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 ziggurat patterns 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.

And he has great images of a now-gentrified New York City:

Our necropolis with anvils of memory chained to every street and building, every tourist postcard view. All its sunsets and bridges and mutilated dawns.

This is a novel that rewards a close reading, and will stick in your mind long after you finish it.