Spring Cleaning Begins
My lovely spouse likes to start the spring cleaning as soon as the weather starts to warm up about five degrees or so. And while I’m excited to give the house an airing and a dusting — the rest of the process is not one that I’m very good at. I usually just try my best to listen to directions and not be annoying incompetent at the simple tasks with which I am bestowed.
However, there is one thing I can do and even enjoy doing. Organizing my book stacks! My reading nest has gotten a bit cluttered up with the to-read pile, despite the success of a book diet. Cluttered enough that we keep bumping it over and it’s blocking a bit of sunlight from the bottom of the sitting room door. So I took some of those stacks and moved them to bookshelves and took the rest of those stacks and organized them to let the light in and prevent it from being a trip hazard.
It didn’t take long, but at least I feel accomplished and maybe I can carry that feeling into other cleaning tasks that I feel a lot less confident about.
Crime as Roman à Clef
When I was researching Gary Indiana’s Rent Boy (which I purchased in a lovely McNally Edition), I came across his crime trilogy (which is sometimes referred to as the ‘millennial crime trilogy’, but he is referring to the dawning of the new millennium, not the generational term). I couldn’t resist ordering it from my local independent bookstore. The three books are substantial, but not overbearing at 300–375 pages each. Each of them is based on a criminal case and uses that case as roman à clef to explore a snapshot of different aspects of society at the turn of the last century through the lens of real events barely veiled.
Resentment uses the case of the Menendez brothers to provide the backdrop for a scathing criticism of mass media and how it influences the perception of individuals, events, and basic reality. I enjoyed Resentment but I found it a bit lengthy compared to the other parts of the trilogy. I also found it the most difficult to decipher in terms of references, because it relied heavily on the reader having seen the televised Menendez trial. It’s obvious that almost every character is a reference to a real person, but the sands of time have eroded the immediacy of their meaning.
Three Month Fever
Based on the Andrew Cunanan case where Cunanan murdered five individuals including Gianni Versace, Three Month Fever is an examination of delusion and deception that Cunanan practiced not just on others but also on himself. Unlike the other books in the trilogy, this one was an in-depth character study which I found particularly compelling. The statement Indiana makes here concerns just how many clues there were that something was wrong with the perpetrator before he committed a violent crime. Indiana argues that silence and deflecting confrontation and responsibility can and does have very real and deadly consequences.
The last book in the trilogy is based on the Kimes case, a criminal mother and son team who killed a few people and scammed many more. In the novel, a mother and son by the name of Evangeline and Devin Slote cut a swath of destruction across the United States, eventually killing in order to get what they want. They also have an incestuous relationship, so readers should be aware that there is graphic sexual abuse. Depraved Indifference features cameos from a few characters from Resentment and is a combination of both the books that have gone before it in terms of style, and pacing. The case of the Slotes critiques commercialism and materialistic desires run rampant in the waning years of the twentieth century, and it also is an in-depth character study of criminals and their victims. It’s really combining the best of the other books — however, the content could potentially be a problem for readers. It’s a shame, because the content could have been excised and faded-to-black without sacrificing anything.
Which Was Best?
Three Month Fever was easily of my favourite of the three books, probably because it reminds me a lot of watching American Justice and crime documentaries. Indiana has clearly done pain-staking research to try to get at the psychology of the perpetrator and the long road Cunanan went down to get to the murder spree. I found Resentment a bit long and a bit unfocussed. I enjoyed the comments on the trial and media, but it took a strange direction to detail California in the 1990s and Hollywood. There were a few too many characters doing a few too many things with an abrupt ending.
As for Depraved Indifference, it was a good book, but the ending was likewise too abrupt and it felt like it never got to the meat of the crimes. Mostly because Evangeline’s character never felt fully explored. Part of the point is that she’s shrouded in her webs of deception, but I think that goes too far at times and it hinders the narrative.
A Note on Style and Substance
Indiana’s style is full of life, while still being very blunt and compelling. He has the ability to write many different characters in many different settings and to do so convincingly. Indiana makes blunt, insightful, shattering statements that are bold, intricate, and complex enough to invite further contemplation long after you shut the covers of the book.
However, there is one distracting thing about Indiana’s writing. It’s glaring and it’s cringey. Indiana doesn’t seem to understand the finer workings of female anatomy — and it can be quite jarring. It’s not something that would ever make me avoid reading his work, but it is a minor pet peeve that takes me out of an immersive reading experience.
Raging Spring Winds
Tonight the winds are howling outside as it pours rain off and on. We were supposed to get a winter storm, but instead we got a driving rain and birds struggling against gale-force winds. I used to get really panicked when the weather got too extreme, but I find it a bit easier now to close the curtains, put on the electric fireplace and read away the noises outside. Though the first set of spring storms is still difficult.
I did also get to see a huge flock of starlings and noodling grackles fighting over suet, so it wasn’t all just wind and rain. My spouse has started to get serious in her battle to keep squirrels out of the feeder, but so far she hasn’t been very successful. She’s a bit outnumbered though — I counted seven squirrels on the verandah this afternoon.