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.
What 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 this 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.”
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/