cover image Let It Bleed: Essays 1985 -1995

Let It Bleed: Essays 1985 -1995

Gary Indiana. Serpent's Tail, $16 (300pp) ISBN 978-1-85242-332-2

Indiana's essays on cultural phenomena-everything from a vacation blitzkrieg in Branson, Mo., to books and exhibits and conspiracy theories-have been dropped like napalm Alka-Seltzer into periodicals such as the Village Voice, Interview, ArtForum and Details for years. His reports from the front ring as true as stories your grandma told you a hundred times, except that your grandma wasn't this funny, smart, mean, self-examined or perceptive-nor, in all probability, did she use the same vocabulary. Indiana's vicious descriptions are on the mark; Clinton's New Hampshire primary campaign is likened to a commercial for Preparation H: ""The proctologist... has ruled against radical surgery in favor of something smooth and greasy and easy to dissolve in the collective rectum."" Yet he splices the easy-mark banter with real curiosity, beautiful prose and a willingness to allow sentiment, such as an unabashed love for Dumbo, to court his skepticism. While more entertaining regarding culture (or the death of it) than news-Euro Disney trumps the trial of the L.A. Four-Indiana's observations provide a smart view not often TelePrompted on the evening news. After a few essays, you start wishing he'd been in your elementary school, shared your early relationships and watched you learn to drive, just so he could tell it all to you again, serving a tastier dish than memory can. A collection this generous does divide into the great and better, but collecting these essays is practically a public service. (May)