Editors: M. Travis DiNicola & Zachary Roth

Publisher: Indy Writes Books

ISBN: 978-0-692-30029-9

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How ironical it seems, when viewing this rich and varied volume, consisting mainly of fictional, nonfictional and poetic pieces, but also including examples of drama, puzzles and translations, that Indianapolis-born Margaret Anderson, in the early decades of the 20th century, left the state of Indiana in search of what she saw as more intellectually inspiring grounds in Chicago because, as she described it, “there was no creative spirit in Indianapolis.” Going on to found The Little Review, which became famous for promoting a spirit and approach that was relentless in its search for truth, audacious in its language usage, anything but provincial in its concerns, and with a keen eye to the subtleties of idiosyncratic utterance, Anderson showed that being Indiana born and bred can give rise to the outpourings of what amounts to prodigious talent. In fact, all the elements heretofore mentioned are shown to be plentifully present in the modern-day Indianapolis dweller (as witness the oral history community project described by Carolyn Jones in her essay entitled “Sitting at the feet of my Flanner House elders: A lesson after dying”).

The pride and dignity with which all authors represented in this compendium of wide-ranging and, in many cases, soulful expression reflect the disparate elements that serve to unite the Hoosier soul, while evidencing the widely diverse nature of their own personal makeup, serves to support the philosophy that serves as a binding gel for all those who believe in the founding principles of the not-for-profit organization, Indy Reads Books. As an outstanding believer in the redemptive and healing power of the spoken and written word, Indy Reads Books is dedicated to promoting and improving the literacy of adults and families in Central Indiana, for the good not only of themselves, but for the well-being of the nation as a whole. All the contributors to this work, of whom several are already extremely well-known both in conventional print as well as through their ongoing output on the Internet have generously donated at least one of their pieces of writing for inclusion in Indy Writes Books (with the internationally renowned John Green leading the nonfiction pack with three essays rather aphoristically entitled “Moving”, “Uncle Tom” and “College”).

The range of content is fascinating, spanning the light-hearted and joyful (such as the word puzzles of Will Shortz, David J. Hoyt and Jeff Knurek) all the way through to the darkly troubled world of noir (with the most notable instance in this work being “What Once Was”, by Frank Bill). With all pieces being relatively short (for how else could one possibly include the offerings of 29 authors, poets, essayists, puzzle-makers, and artists within the ambit of 369 pages?), the chance to glimpse into the depths of, and searching insights into, different aspects of the human psyche, as impacting on, and as derived from, the written word should be inescapable and unavoidable not only to every Indiana bibliophile, but also to anyone who believes that the Indiana spirit of venturesomeness and raw guts and hide have been key to making the American spirit what it is today.

In his Preface to the book, M. Travis DiNicola, Executive Director and Founder of Indy Reads Books, expresses the wish that, through this compilation, readers should become aware of authors whose works have previously not drawn their attention. Further reading of the works by each contributor to the anthology is encouraged by the inclusion of a short and selective one-page biography for each, with reference to some of their major writings, and an indication of their online presence in the form of websites and blogs. Indy Writes Books is, in short, to be treasured, not only for the altruistic spirit with which it was compiled, or for its ongoing contribution to the support of an extremely worthwhile cause, but also for the richness of the culture that it represents and the depth of the humanity that it portrays.