“Corn, Limestone, and Books: Why Hoosier Writers Sell Best” by Indianapolis Author Dan Wakefield

Isn’t it funny how our own history can prove to be so elusive? Questions regarding historical Hoosiers who were heavy with influence in life, and questions surrounding Indiana’s literary days of yore would likely stump most of us. These questions would leave us pondering our great state’s history. They would leave us standing there with no memory of those bygone Hoosiers. The memories of those men and women of our past, whose lives and stories have proved integral to creating our present, would grow more and more dim. That is, if not for the storyteller. Enter Dan Wakefield.


In his own right, Mr. Wakefield has established himself well in the Hoosier State’s heritage as a famous author and storyteller. An Indianapolis native, Mr. Wakefield spent his formative years on the Northside in the Broad Ripple Village area, and later attended Shortridge High School just ten years after fellow Indianapolis author, and friend Kurt Vonnegut (the man who would later help him publish his first book). At Shortridge, Mr. Wakefield began his writing career as a columnist for the school’s newspaper, The Daily Echo, and later became a sports correspondent for The Indianapolis Star.


In 1952, Mr. Wakefield pulled up his Indiana roots and replanted out east in New York City as an English student at Columbia College. Three years later, with his Columbia English degree in tow, Mr. Wakefield began his career as a freelance journalist in New York. Determined not to get lost in the sea of journalistic competition, Mr. Wakefield broke through the clutter and found himself writing for Harpers, The Atlantic,and The New York Times Magazine. In less than ten years after graduating from Columbia, he had already published two notable books, and at the age of 34 was acknowledged by New York Times book critic Eliot Fremont-Smith to be “one of the country’s most perceptive and sensitive independent commentator-reporters.”

In times since, Mr. Wakefield has become more known for his works of fiction. In particular his novel Going All the Way, which includes a forward by Kurt Vonnegut, has gained critical acclaim, and has also been adapted into a feature film (by Mr. Wakefield, of course) staring Jeremy Davies, Ben Affleck, and Rachel Weisz.


While it may be clear that Mr. Wakefield has found his place in Indiana’s literary hall of fame, the stories and the history that brought this hall of fame to be may be becoming foggier and foggier with each passing year. This brings us back to the storyteller who dearly serves as the keeper of our memories. He recounts before our eyes and ears from where we have come. He demonstrates our traditions, and tells our stories all the while showing us how both shape our present.


On Friday, December 5 Dan Wakefield will join us for the Harrison Center’s First Friday artist reception. He will bring with him the stories of Hoosier authors from our past to our present in four 15-minute talks. Beginning with Lew Wallace and his masterpiece Ben Hur and going all the way through to John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Mr. Wakefield will show us “why Hoosier writers sell best.”

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