Three Month Fever: The Andrew Cunanan Story
by Gary Indiana
2017 (Semiotext(e) / Native Agents)
In his introduction to the 2017 reissue of Gary Indiana´s fascinating Three Month Fever: The Andrew Cunanan Story, journalist and literary critic Christopher Glazek introduces the idea of deflationary realism. In this form of prose, Glazek says, there is little room for sentimentality; it is closer to contemporaries like Dennis Cooper and Rachel Cusk, often bleak and alienating, leaving no room for tragic or romantic heroes.
Such a descriptive helps to untangle the richly layered and unusual narrative Indiana constructs here in Three Month Fever. Sure, on its most basic level, the book is a portrait of Andrew Cunanan, the spree killer who murdered fashion designer Gianni Versace during the summer of 1997, before committing suicide on a luxury houseboat in Miami about a week later. But Indiana has created a lurid and complex world here, one which may quickly baffle some readers, as he´s set his ambitions beyond writing just a "true crime" novel.
Instead of presenting a clear and tidy portrait of Cunanan--a coherent narrative that sifts through the conflicting interviews, media commentaries, and detective work, to get to the "real story"--Indiana chooses instead to have form follow subject, thus making contradiction and bewilderment central to howThree Month Fever is read and experienced. As the author has frequently insisted, this book is not a realistic narrative, but a pastiche. Indiana´s acerbic and scathing prose, familiar to readers who enjoyed his earllier books Gone Tomorrow and Horse Crazy. However, with Three Month Fever, he also shifts between multiple perspectives, often giving voice to unreliable narrators whose motives and portrayal of the facts are contradictory. Instead of a linear narrative, the book jumps between time and place, demanding not only greater engagement from the reader but also plunging us deeper into the disorienting world of being in close proximity to Cunanan. As his facade of performing normality to his lovers and acquaintances begins to slip, as the danger heats up, Three Month Fever notches up the levels of anxiety in the concluding chapters.
In Three Month Fever, Indiana´s intrepid background in literature, journalism, and cultural criticism fuse, and this book aspires towards more than just a recreation of dramatic and real events to create "The Andrew Cunanan Story". By including police transcripts, author interviews with friends who knew the killer and some of the victims, as well as his own personal views on it all, Indiana interrogates American culture (particularly gay male American culture) at the end of the last millennium. Cunanan may be the catalyst, but Three Month Fever is much more about us--our obsession with celebrity-culture, our attraction to perceived wealth and power, and the turn-on of danger.
Cunanan didn´t only kill Versace, but unfortunately this is the murder that everyone remembers , and which so much of the public wanted to somehow be a part of. After the news broke about Versace´s death, suddenly everyone was supposed to be at his house that day but "canceled at the last minute"; and may gay men, who maybe had only seen Cunanan at one of many gay bars across the country, suddenly were friends with the killer, or had slept with him, or had heard him plan the brutal attack days or weeks in advance. None of these reports are factually true, but they add to the larger point that Indiana is attempting to make with Three Month Fever: how everyone longs to be a part of something bigger, especially if it involves the media, the rich, and the powerful. The fact that Cunanan himself was constantly changing his story, giving contradictory descriptions of who he was and where he came from, only adds further mystery to the entire episode. While the media wanted this story to fit into a neat clean narrative, Three Month Fever offers the "truth" of these horrors--that the narrative doesn´t make sense, has many lingering questions and holes. This true-crime novel is like assembling a puzzle, where a number of pieces are missing: one can see the outlines of the portrait, but questions like motive, or if Cunanan ever had a prior relationship with Versace, remain missing. For Indiana, Cunanan is more of a ghost than a person.
In addition to the Italian designer, Cunanan´s murdered Jeffrey Traill and David Madson in Minneapolis, Lee Miglin in Chicago, and William Reese in Pennsville Township, New Jersey. Few remember these men, as they were not friends with Elton John or Princess Di, didn´t design spectacular clothes nor hold thrilling sex parties with beautiful young men. Indiana has stated thatThree Month Fever is the second of what he calls "the Depraved Indifference Trilogy". With this fascinating, lurid, and complex book, he is asking us to think less about Versace, and much more about our own depravity, our own obsession with Cunanan and other killers like him.