Growing up in Indiana, I often heard about Booth Tarkington, perhaps until Kurt Vonnegut came along the most famous writer from Indiana. (Ross Lockridge, Jr., author of the amazing Raintree County, might have held that title if he hadn’t committed suicide in 1948 before he completed another book.) And for reasons I no longer remember, we would sometimes visit Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis and I remember seeing Tarkington’s grave. (John Dillinger is also buried there and probably some other famous Hoosiers – I guess that’s why we went.)
In any case, it’s a familiar name but I can’t say that I’ve read his work, even his most famous (because of a movie adaptation), The Magnificent Ambersons. But I’m going to be in Indiana for a family gathering later this month and I decided to make the visit longer and rent a cabin in Brown County (other than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indiana’s most famous attraction) to spend a few days writing – away from the house, the internet, etc. And what I came up with was a cabin that the owners suggest (claim is too strong a word) was used by Booth Tarkington as a writing retreat. The cabin is 120 years old and is on top of a hill, and we’ll see how it feels to spend a few days being that isolated! The cabin is in the picture above.
>Hope it’s not too hot and humid for you up there.
Other famous Hoosier authors: Lew Wallace and Theodore Dreiser.
>Ooh, forgot about Dreiser (but I confess I had to look Wallace up). Turns out there are some others who, in their times, were pretty big names:
“Meredith Nicholson (1866–1947) was an important figure in Indiana’s “Golden Age” of literature, which extended roughly from 1880 to 1920. One of the “Big Four” writers—with James Whitcomb Riley, George Ade, and Booth Tarkington—Nicholson authored twenty-eight books, all but two of which were published between 1903 and 1929, a period in which he wrote full time. Most of these works were best-selling novels, but he also produced a history, a book of short stories, four collections of essays, two books of poetry, and a co-authored play. His third novel, The House of a Thousand Candles (1905), a thrilling adventure/mystery story set in northern Indiana, was by far his most popular and most successful book. Translated into five languages and still in print today, it has sold more than half a million copies.”
>Booth Tarkington’s “Penrod” books were right there alongside Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn when I was in fifth and sixth grade, my absolute favorites. In fact, I found two (Penrod Jasper and Penrod & Sam) at the local used book store and bought them for old times’ sake.
Enjoy the stay, Cliff!
>Jim, I ordered Penrod and Penrod&Sam last night — they’ve both been reissued recently. And just this afternoon I found another BT book, Kate Fennigate, in a used bookstore. Maybe I’ll find more in Indiana bookstores . . .
>Don’t forget the crown of Crown hill, James Whitcomb Riley’s grave.