Eight local authors who have gained national prominence in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.
BY JEREMY SHERE, PHOTOGRAPHY BY JIM KRAUSE
Bloomington’s literary landscape has, perhaps, never been more varied or vibrant than it is today.
At once, several local authors are attracting national attention, achieving commercial success, and receiving praise from the media’s most discerning critics.
Michael Koryta, just 32, has already written 10 critically acclaimed novels, and nine have been optioned for film or television development. A Bloomington native, Koryta has multiple best-sellers, won several important awards, and is considered among the best suspense genre writers of the day.
Michael Shelden’s celebrated tome from 2013, Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill, is being developed as a six-part television series for the BBC by the creators of the popular Downton Abbey series. The prolific Shelden also has penned a biography of George Orwell that was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a controversial biography of novelist Graham Greene, and a detailed chronicle of Mark Twain’s final years.
Renowned feminist scholar and literary critic Susan Gubar’s Memoir of a Debulked Woman is a personal account of her battle with ovarian cancer and a revealing examination of a form of the disease rarely talked or written about. The 2012 book received reverential reviews and the kind of attention rarely afforded to such weighty subject matter.
Many others in Bloomington, at Indiana University and beyond, are writing novels, poetry, and nonfiction, abetted by entities including IU’s Creative Writing Program, the Writers Guild at Bloomington, Women Writing for (a) Change, and the Bloomington Writing Project.
It’s been stated over and over by authors: Bloomington offers an ideal environment in which to write.
Says Scott Russell Sanders, who has more than 20 fiction and nonfiction books to his credit, “The size of the city, its human scale and surrounding landscape, all inform my writing. There’s a sense that writers and, really, anyone who lives here can make a difference.”
Writing seems to be as entrenched in the city’s firmament as its limestone foundation. Terre Haute, Indiana, native Theodore Dreiser was an IU alumnus who was among the first to eschew Victorian mores with his trenchant accounts of life, as it really was, in the early 20th century. Newspaper columnist and World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle learned his craft at IU and is now regarded with veneration for his clean, clear writing style and unerring compassion. Bloomingtonian Ross Lockridge Jr. wrote a number one best-seller, Raintree County, before committing suicide here in 1948 — just as the book was becoming a sensation. More recently, Douglas Hofstadter, an IU professor of cognitive science, wrote Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, which won the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction in 1980.
For this article, we have profiled eight writers who are making an impact and shining a literary light on Bloomington.