The Gentleman of the Press in Skirts – Post #15 of Deal Me “IN” 2016


The Card: ♠♠♠Six of Spades ♠♠♠

The Suit
: For 2016, Spades is my suit for “Indiana-related short nonfiction works”

The Selection: “The Gentleman of the Press in Skirts” from “Forgotten Hoosiers” (I have two other biographical vignettes – still waiting to be drawn – from this book on my 2016 Deal Me “IN” roster)

The Author: Fred Cavinder (pictured below from The Southside Times), who has written several Indiana-themed books, also worked for the Indianapolis Star for 37 years, serving in many positions, from reporter to feature writer to editor.

 

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/story roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in thislegacy project seal of approval 2 year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is now also officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

 

“The Gentleman of the Press in Skirts”

I’d been wondering if I would ever draw any more spades this year! Perhaps “The Deal Me In Gods” were displeased that I included some short nonfiction works in my annual project for the first time in 2016? Whatever the cause, I’ve finally drawn one and it let me to this piece on Janet Flanner, a “forgotten” Hoosier from a book of “Forgotten Hoosiers.” 
I was familiar with the name Flanner from growing up in Indianapolis because of “Flanner and Buchanan” mortuary – a still active business in the Indianapolis today. Janet’s father, Frank, was one of the founding partners in this business, the kind of which her mother, Mary, was “always a bit ashamed.”

Janet herself, however, became a literary star of her day, and a groundbreaking one at that, as that business was still almost exclusively the domain of men. She became famous for her series of “Letters from Paris” beginning in 1925, when she began writing for a new magazine at that time – one you may have heard of called The New Yorker. She wrote under the pen name of “Genet” Flanner – chosen because it “sounded more French” – and also allowed her some of the freedom that an alter ego often facilitates. Of her time in Paris, she wrote:

“Americans with little private income, like me, who wanted to write, could afford to live on their hopes and good bistro food on the Left Bank.”

(below – as pictured in the book – Flanner and Hemingway – perhaps reviewing copy?)

This time in Paris also led to her meeting and working with Ernest Hemingway among other literary luminaries. Later, still for The New Yorker, for which she worked for fifty years, she wrote a series of profiles on artists of the day, one of which was for Edith Wharton, which I intend to seek out and read, as that author has had a couple turns during previous years’ iterations of the Deal Me In challenge.

I look forward to meeting two other “Forgotten Hoosiers” before this project is over. The two I’ve included in my Deal Me In roster are John Milton Hay and Max Hermann. Now, I’ve heard of one of them, but the other one I’ve, er, “forgotten”…

Playing card image from https://playingcardcollector.net/2013/04/27/the-colour-printing-plant-nevskie-playing-cards/

And here I thought I was going to be the only person in town NOT at the track last Sunday…


Where was I instead? The Library of course! The Central Branch of the IMCPL (Indianapolis Marion County Public Library) hosted an event at 3:30 featuring a few authors reading their works from the recently published “Mythic Indy” anthology of short stories. This anthology – as you might guess from the title – is a collection of fabricated myths about Indianapolis (my home town). I was also pleased to learn that this event was intended to be the first of a series featuring the stories and authors in this anthology.  The profits for sales of this book go to a local non-profit, “Second Story,” which hosts writing camps for young students and helps those who might be ‘intimidated’ by the written word.

Better attended than most local “readings” I’ve been too, this one was held in the Library’s Sexton East Reading Room and, perhaps not coincidentally, the Central Library was featured prominently in one of the stories – in particular an outdoor sculpture that lay just beyond the wall behind the lectern. In fact, though Indy is a pretty large city, all the stories featured in this event were set within walking distance – a fact I made use of afterward, as you’ll see from some of my photos if you read on…

(above: top Clint Smith reads to the crowd (photo courtesy of Corey Dalton), bottom(photos by me) from left to right, Maggie Wheeler, Austin Wilson, and Hugh Vandivier take their turns at the mic)

Of the four authors, first up was Clint Smith, who shared his story “The Fall of Tomlinson Hall; or The Ballad of the Butcher’s Cart.” The story ‘mythologically’ explains the demise of Indianapolis’s storied “Tomlinson Hall” (see photos of plaque and arch below, underneath the photo of Corey Dalton introducing one of the authors). Smith and Gills are two cooks at downtown Indy’s Columbia Club (NOT a fictional place) who find an odd, insufficiently hidden key and use it to enter a portal in the club’s cellar that leads down even further. The two off-duty cooks’ explorations reminded me vaguely of H.P. Lovecraft’s story “The Statement of Randolph Carter” – although the title character of that story had the prudence to wait “above ground” while his buddy Harley Warren explored below.

tomlinson

(below – from Wikipedia: The Columbia Club in downtown Indianapolis.  I’ve only been inside a few times – for lunches, or training seminars and even once to “party” with some of my then employer’s corporate visitors from North Carolina.  Always reminded me of the fictional “Heritage Club” in the movie “Trading Places” 🙂 )

Next up was Maggie Wheeler, whose story was “How Market Square Arena Killed Elvis.” In this new myth, it turns out that Indy’s old Market Square Arena (the site of Elvis Presley’s final concert in 1977) was actually constructed on the site of a Native American burial ground. While preparing for the show,”The King” notices an “anomaly” in the wall of his dressing room, which turns out to be a human bone from this burial ground. Coveting it as a potential item of jewelry, he extracts the artifact from the wall, carting it back to Graceland where it amusingly discovers how hard it is to haunt someone who is more often than not “under the influence.” There was an ample amount of humor in this story too, and the reading brought laughter from the audience at a couple points.

(above: the plaque commemorating Elvis’s last concert (photo from elvisinfo.net). I looked for it on my post-reading photo shoot, but think it may be temporarily relocated during the latest construction on the site that is now ongoing (below).)

Next was a longer story – “thinmanlittlebird” by Austin Wilson. This one detailed a mythical origin of the two unusual statues/sculptures (called “little bird” and “thin man”) that flank the south entrance of the library. The author’s enthusiasm during his reading and about the event was contagious. This tale was also the “deepest” of the four, featuring “extraterrestrial muses,” inspiring – and inspired by – the arts of our humble human race. This is one I’ll probably read again. Some of the Extraterrestrials’ thoughts regarding art:

“It is beautiful. The universe. It behaves in some ways because it cannot do other. Cannot. However,” and the man held up a hand, his humpy finger extended, “it behaves in others … in ways because we direct. Reacts.”

(below: the “thin man” (left) and “little bird” (right) sculptures exist in reality, only Wilson’s story is fictional. Well, I assume it is…)

Lastly, we listened to Hugh Vandivier read his story “The Zero Point” – one of a couple “name origin” entries in the anthology. Told to the narrator by another patron at Indy’s “literarily iconic” Red Key Tavern, it explains how Washington Street got its name. Hint: it’s not how one would assume…

All in all, quite a fun event, and I look forward to the others in the series!

Read an Indianapolis Star article with more about this anthology at http://www.indystar.com/story/entertainment/2015/11/04/mythic-indy-looking-beyond-legends/75169948/

Or in Nuvo: (Indy’s “Alternative Voice”) http://m.nuvo.net/indianapolis/all-of-the-myths-about-indy-you-have-never-heard-of/Content?oid=3996215

Better yet, support a good cause and buy a copy of “Mythic Indy” for yourself!

I’ve blogged before about a couple other entries in this anthology, “The Man on the Monon” and “The Gods of Indianapolis.” I’ve also previously featured a story by Clint Smith, “What Happens in Hell Stays in Hell.”