Listen to Hoosier History Live! at 11:30 a.m. each Saturday on WICR 88.7 FM. The Saturday show airs again at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday. You also can listen online at the WICR website during the broadcast. And, beginning Feb. 6 you will be able to join a listening group at Bookmama's in Irvington to listen to, and discuss, the Saturday show.
Jan. 2 show - Janet Flanner’s colorful and literary life
Along with her admirer Kurt Vonnegut, fascinating Janet Flanner was one of the most acclaimed literary figures ever to come out of Indianapolis. Alas, more than 30 years after her death, Paris-based Janet Flanner may no longer be a household name, although she received a burst of attention last spring when she was inducted posthumously into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame.
Witty and incisive, Janet Flanner (1892-1978) grew up amid the family that founded the Flanner & Buchanan mortuary business in Indianapolis. For 50 years, from 1925 to 1975, she wrote – under the pen name “Genet” – columns, profiles and vignettes for The New Yorker as its Paris correspondent. Her conversational dispatches, packaged as her “Letter from Paris,” were eagerly awaited by thousands of devoted readers and included profiles of such cultural icons (and personal friends) as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Charles de Gaulle and Albert Camus.
Nelson’s studio guests will be Flanner’s cousin, Scott Keller, the former city-county councilman in Indy, and Chris Connolly, a local expert about her life and career. A well-known appraiser of antiques, fine art and collectibles, Scott always champions the impact of his colorful cousin, whose dispatches chronicled the “Lost Generation” in post-World War I Europe that included Flanner’s pals Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein.
Before her astonishing career overseas, Flanner served as the first movie critic for The Indianapolis Star in 1916. According to some accounts, she was one of the first film critics (reviewing silent flicks, of course) in the entire country. Chris, an Indianapolis businessman, is writing a play about Flanner. Incidentally, in this Youtube video, you can watch Flanner hold her own in a live television scuffle between Gore Vidal and Normal Mailer; it's from a 1971 Dick Cavett show.
Known as a "writer's writer," Janet Flanner once said, “I act as a sponge. I soak it up and squeeze it out in ink every two weeks.” Flanner attended Tudor Hall School for Girls (where she was president of her class in 1905) and, like Vonnegut, had a turbulent relationship with her hometown. Her father, Indianapolis philanthropist Frank Flanner, committed suicide in 1912. He had co-founded the mortuary business with his brother-in-law, Charles Buchanan. (Frank Flanner also had founded a nonprofit organization, the Flanner Guild, to assist low-income people. It was the forerunner of today’s Flanner House.)
Scott's crusade to make certain that his distinguished relative is remembered in their hometown has included donating the building that houses the Phoenix Theatre in her memory. A pioneer in the renovation of downtown houses and other properties in the 1980s, Scott has won awards from the Riley Area Development Corp. and other organizations for his urban trailblazing.
Some fast facts:
- While based in Europe, Janet Flanner wrote articles on Hitler’s rise to power; after World War II, she covered the Nuremberg trials. Her profile subjects ranged from Queen Mary of England to French artist Henry Matisse.
- Since her death, Flanner has been the subject of several well-received biographies. They include Genet: A Biography of Janet Flanner by Brenda Wineapple (University of Nebraska Press) and Janet, My Mother and Me by William Murray (Simon & Schuster).
- In the Genet bio, author Wineapple writes that Janet Flanner “consistently described Indiana as a hateful place, with its bourgeois standards, its lack of beauty, and its elongated flat spaces.” However, esteemed journalist Lawrence "Bo” Connor, who interviewed Flanner as a cub reporter for The Indianapolis Star while visiting Paris in 1952, recalled in a recent Traces magazine piece that “she had no harsh words for the city."
- When Flanner died in 1978, Vonnegut was so worried that the death of the world-renowned literary figure would not receive appropriate attention in their mutual hometown that he phoned The Star to lobby for a thorough obituary. He recounted this effort in his autobiographical book Palm Sunday (1981), writing that he considered Flanner “the most deft and charming literary stylist Indianapolis has so far produced.”
History Mystery question
In addition to Janet Flanner, several other women who were native Hoosiers became famous writers during the mid-20th century. They included a woman who was born in Muncie during the 1890s. Known for her light-hearted humor, she was the co-author of a book about her youthful trip to Europe that became a national bestseller in 1942. Then it was turned into a hit movie in 1944. Before that, she had carved out a successful career as a journalist, serving as managing editor of Ladies’ Home Journal magazine. After her 1942 bestseller, she wrote more than a dozen other books. Like Janet Flanner, she also wrote regularly for The New Yorker magazine. She died in 1989.
Question: Name the famous Hoosier writer.
The call-in number for the correct answer is (317) 788-3314. Please do not call in to the station until you hear Nelson pose the question on the air. The prize is a gift certificate to Easley Winery, courtesy of Easley Winery.
Our Roadtripper, Chris Gahl of the ICVA, will be calling in with a surprise Indiana travel pick for January. We have an unconfirmed report that he'll be calling in from a sub-tropical clime to check in with those of us shivering up north.
Your friends in Hoosierdom,
Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Armstrong Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Richard Sullivan, tech and web director
Garry Chilluffo, online editor
Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support:
Antique Helper, Skip Sauvain of Sycamore Group Realtors, Lucas Oil and Story Inn.
Acknowledgments to Print Resources, Indianapolis Marion County Public Library, Monomedia Inc., Indiana Humanities Council, Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Drew Pastorek, and many other individuals and organizations. We are an independently produced program and are self-supporting through sponsorships and through individual tax-deductible contributions through the Indiana Humanities Council. Visit our website to learn more.
K.P. Singh on the Sikh heritage in Indiana
It’s our 100th show, so wouldn’t you expect something special from Hoosier History Live? Well-known artist K.P. Singh will join Nelson in studio for a show in our rotating series about ethnic immigration and spiritual heritage in Indiana. Born in India, trained as an architect and renowned for his pen-and-ink drawings, K.P. was one of the few local members of the Sikh religion when he settled in Indianapolis during the 1960s; then-Mayor Richard Lugar had hired him as a city planner. Today, there’s more than one Sikh temple in the Indy metro area as well as a head priest. K.P., who eventually became a founding member of the International Center of Indianapolis and now devotes himself full-time to his artwork, will share details about the growth here in Sikhism, the world’s fifth-largest religion. At one Sikh temple alone in Indianapolis, weekly attendance usually is more than 300 people.
Credited with helping start a group that saved Union Station from demolition in the 1970s, K.P. is known for his architectural artwork of Hoosier landmarks, ranging from the Indianapolis City Market and the Indiana Statehouse to the Vigo County Courthouse and the University of Notre Dame. He's also acclaimed for his artwork that depicts monuments in his homeland of India, as well as in Washington D.C., such as the Lincoln Memorial. Many of his drawings, as well as accompanying essays and poems, are featured in his book, The Art and Spirit of K.P. Singh (2003). He will share his personal journey as a Hoosier, along with details about the evolution of local Sikhs, whose temples are called “gurdwaras.”
Visit our website!
Our newly revamped website is chock-full of Hoosier history, including details of past and upcoming Hoosier History Live! shows. We are gradually adding a richer audio section with full-length shows for your listening pleasure. New this week:
© 2009 Hoosier History Live! All rights reserved.