‘I can give you anything but high praise for this effort, Gary Hoisington (real name) for a very patchy effort.’ I have enjoyed his work in the past as edgy with a good clear eye for the grungier aspects of some gay life, Rent Boy 1994 and also Resentment (1998) and Gone Tomorrow (1993). This offering is a memoir which is presented in a number of compartmentalised flashbacks, some discreet, some linked. It all makes for some confusion without a lot of redeeming benefit.
He is still a skilled wordsmith with varying techniques employed in this case with varying success. Despite his claims, I found the ‘almost’ stream-of-consciousness treatment of his early years to be a fine piece of writing which I found difficult to stop – good stuff! The other passages spend time on his years in San Francisco and Los Angeles and Cuba. I cannot say I enjoyed the sections set in Los Angeles probably because they were unable to evoke much positive response or interest from me, however bizarre and desperate his living conditions, behaviours and friendships. Instead, I found myself feeling that I was being treated to the whingeing of someone who had missed the proverbial ‘train’ through his own self-indulgence from which he was unable to escape. As I have indicated above, he has had a wide readership and has been recognised for his abilities, but all that is left is the bitterness and invective he rains down upon his personal dislikes, Susan Sontag, David Lynch (seemingly deeply personal and vicious) and Ernest Hemingway (gets a bit of some support from me on this one).
The exception for me would be the Cuba passages. I have an acquaintance who is a keen student of Spanish (he has done multiple Camino pilgrimages) and who visits Cuba regularly (I have seen the photos). Indiana put flesh on why he and my acquaintance like Cuba and its men. There were regular passages, sometimes fondly descriptive of places, sometimes evocative of the people, their way of life and living that were greatly enjoyable. It is up to the individual reader to decide what they think of his personal interactions but I enjoyed his coverage of this strange corner of the world, half gripped by its socialist past and part with a growing awareness of what lies beyond.
I can fine nothing much better than his own words to finish.
‘The book… has turned out radically different than I expected. At some point I began to prune away anything suggesting the sort of “triumph over adversity” theme that gongs through much of the so-called memoir genre, paring away most evidence of my eventual career as a writer and artist–which has not, in any case, been an unmitigated triumph over adversity. I’m almost sixty-five, I still have practically nothing of my own, and could very well end up on the same trash heap where most old people in America get tossed, regardless of whatever “cultural capital” I’ve accumulated.’