“Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler’s List” by Michael Martone – selection #49 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♦A♦ Ace of Diamonds

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Diamonds is my suit for Contemporary Indiana Authors

The Selection: “Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler’s List” from the short story collection of the same name (with the subtitle: “Indiana Stories”).  I own a paperback copy, and another of its contents, “Schliemann in Indianapolis” made an earlier appearance in this year’s Deal Me “IN” challenge.

The Author: Michael Martone (his picture at left (that’s an Indiana flag shirt!) found at http://www.erinpringle.com/2014/07/2014-summer-library-series-four.html ). Last year I was quite impressed with “Winesburg, Indiana: A Fork River Anthology” which he edited, and I had heard of this volume through the grapevine so it found a place on my Deal Me “IN” roster. He was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and is currently a professor at the University of Alabama.

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! 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 postlegacy project seal of approval 2For a look at my deck of cards/storyroster 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. The 2016 iteration of Deal Me “IN” is also a “Legacy Project” officially endorsed by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission!

Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler’s List

“During the war, the top hemisphere of the streetlight globes were painted with a black opaque glaze. They stayed that way after the war. No one seems to mind. Parts of dead insects show in the lower half of the globe. There’s more and more of them in there summer after summer.”

What list?  Why Fort Wayne? Is there any truth in this? These are all questions I asked myself when I first heard of this story. Perhaps reading it would provide some answers…

Perhaps not, though. Other research indicates that Fort Wayne was potentially a prime target during World War II – due to industrial production, etc. – whether or not it was really on a list is a bit unclear.  This “story” (it felt more to me like I was reading a prose poem) is about a city that was once on ‘high alert’ during wartime, and centers around the narrator’s grandfather who lived in those times.

It tells of times where the city would practice blackouts – one particularly vivid episode was when the grandfather (he was a “block warden” because “everyone remembered the way he’d kept calm during The War of the Worlds.”) participated in a demonstration to emphasize the importance of absolute dark. “Grandfather said that the (Civil Defense) man lit a match when the rest of the city was all dark. He said that you could see the whole park and the faces of everyone in the park… The man blew out the match with one breath. The people went home in the dark. Were they wishing they could do something about the stars.”

It also seems that the grandfather never quite fully exited the “war footing” mentality and even decades later would still see and feel things about the city in that context and through the lens of a slight paranoia.  This gave the story a haunting quality.

I enjoyed this piece less than the other one I read for Deal Me “IN,” but it was still quite good and I’d like to once again recommend the book Martone edited “Winesburg, Indiana.” Which is full of great, short vignettes about the people of a fictional Indiana town.

Have you read anything by Michael Martone?  What did you think of him?  What are some of your favorite literary depictions of the “Home Front” during the war?  One I can think of is the excellent “Under the Apple Tree” by Indiana author Dan Wakefield.

Deal Me In Bonus: Trivia question:  Which iconic 1968 cinematic space traveler hailed from Fort Wayne, Indiana?

Below (from Trip Advisor) Fort Wayne, Indiana

fort-wayne-is-indiana

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