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Indiana authors and their books 1917-1966.
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Introduction

This work is intended to continue the study begun in Indiana Authors and Their Books, 1816—1916. It will cover another half century of notably prolific Indiana writers.

The committee responsible,
  • Donald E. Thompson, Chairman
  • Roger D. Branigin
  • Hazel Hopper
  • Gayle Thornbrough
  • Cecil K. Byrd
  • Richard E. Banta
undertakes to follow the rule set up for inclusion of material in the original volume; that is to exclude textbooks, contributions to periodicals and serials, and state or federal publications and addresses, unless the latter were obviously intended principally for publication. As in the original, an author is considered eligible for inclusion if he or she was born in the state or, born elsewhere, chose to spend the majority of his or her maturity within Indiana bounds.

Meredith Nicholson had commented on the extremely large literary production by citizens of the state in his book The Hoosiers, published in 1900, and the phenomenon had been noted by writers in newspapers before and after that date. But in 1904 or 1905 a professor of English literature at Wabash College, a man of Eastern background (as professors of English literature tended to be in that day) issued a statement to one of his classes. "If," he said, indicating some doubt by his inflection, "there actually was such an excessive tendency on the part of Indiana residents to commit their thoughts to the printed page, it was probably a result of the meeting on Indiana soil in the eighteenth century of the widely disparate French, English and Indian cultures." This reasoning has been clearly demonstrated to be erroneous--nevertheless the professor's statement served a purpose. Lee McCanliss, one of his students, pondering it forty years later, became so intrigued with the theory that he proposed and financed the original 1816-1916 study. In the original work only one writer of French connection appeared and she had only married the descendant of an early French family: there was only one Indian, Chief Simon Pokagon, and though unquestionably Indian, the Chief was less than an inspired writer.

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Probably the best of the current Indiana writers of fiction are producing books which sell in the range of those of Tarkington, Nicholson, McCutcheon, Phillips and their contemporaries. If no single novel has yet quite received the enthusiasm, even worship, that was the share of General Wallace's Ben Hur, we must remember that this opus has unusual advantages. As Abe Erlanger is reported to have said while producing the elaborate stage version, "I'm not worried, it can't fail; no play whose cast includes both Jesus Christ and a live horse race could be anything but a success."

Modern Hoosier novelists have not yet produced characters who achieve the universal recognition that fell to the share of either Penrod Schofield or those prizes of sugared juvenile female rectitude, The Girl of the Limberlost and The Little Colonel. No modern Hoosier has as yet achieved the geopolitical distinction of inventing a complete country that can match Graustark in fame. In these matters current writers fa'll short of their predecessors: in winning top-flight literary prizes, making book-club selections, and keeping their names consistently on the best-seller lists they more than hold their own, not only against the Indiana field of a half century ago but in competition with writers of the outlands as represented by the other states, regardless of size of population. So, this volume will demonstrate that the Indiana literary mill continues to grind away. And its product is only devoted to producing fiction in a small percent. A scanning of the titles listed here wi'll show numbers of works devoted to history, biography, economics, poetry, the arts, sciences (and not all to those ordinary old sciences described as "physical" and "natural," not by any means: it was a Hoosier professor who, in effect, discovered sex a few decades ago and rocked some segments of the reading public with his works Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female). There is a considerable devotion to religion also and in fact to every other conceivable category of subject matter including, no native will be in the least surprised to learn, moral rectitude, in which as a people we Hoosiers undoubtedly excel!

But why continue to boast of our achievements when they are all described hereafter and may more modestly speak for themselves? We give you herewith Indiana Authors and Their Books, 1917-1966.

R. E. BANTA, FOR THE COMMITTEE

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