Editor’s note: This post is Part 3 of “Celebrating the People of Bloomington,” a special retrospective revisiting some of the stories Bloom has published since its inception in 2006. The details in these stories have not been changed since they were originally written, but we have provided updates when possible. Each story highlights an individual who contributed to making Bloomington a compassionate, diverse, and creative community. For more stories from “Celebrating the People of Bloomington,” click here.
Jeff Sagarin: Numbers Guy of the Sports World
Jeff Sagarin lives for two things: sports and numbers. As a kid growing up in New York and worshiping baseball players like Mickey Mantle and Willy Mays, Sagarin studied game scores and batting averages in the daily papers.
A computer programmer, Sagarin developed a sports ranking system on the side, hoping to one day be able to make a living doing what he loved. That happened in 1985 when USA Today started running his “Sagarin Ratings” in the newspaper. And for the past 20 years, the NCAA has used them to help rank teams in its championship basketball and, more recently, football tournaments.
Michael Koryta: Our Noir Detective Mystery Writer
Bloomington High School North and Indiana University graduate Michael Koryta, 24, is being hailed as one of America’s foremost young mystery writers. His first novel, Tonight I Said Goodbye (2004), won the prestigious S. Martin’s Press/Private Eye Writers of American Prize for best first P.I. novel and was an Edgar Award finalist for best first novel.
“My dad was a big Humphrey Bogart film noir fan,” recalls Koryta. “I love that stuff. That’s where I got the interest in the noir detective.”
Koryta is quick to attribute much of his success to his hometown roots. “A lot of the good things that have happened to me professionally have been a direct result of people in the community going out of their way to help me,” he says.
Koryta has written many books since; several have been optioned for movies.
Malcolm Dalglish: Bloomington Singer/Songwriter Is Riding High
Among Bloomington songwriters, Malcolm Dalglish is probably the hardest to characterize—“choral composer and director, hammer dulcimer, spoons, bones, and chin music virtuoso who presents programs of original folk choir and dulcimer music, stories, mime, thyme, rhythm, and song,” according to his website.
Dalglish came to Bloomington in 1983 with a reputation as a talented hammer dulcimer composer and performer. As his career grew, he began expanding into spoken word and performance art, as well as writing for and working with youth and professional adult choirs around the country.
“I try to write choral songs that are fun to sing with lyrics and melodies that come out of a Midwestern, American experience,” says Dalglish, who has recorded 10 albums of original music.
Dalglish is famous for his concerts at the Buskirk-Chumley, after which he serves pie to the audience.
Janet Cheatham Bell: A Memoirist with a Story to Tell
When Janet Cheatham Bell first came to Bloomington in 1955 as one of a handful of African American students at Indiana University, she found the town less than friendly at times. In her new book, The Time and Place That Gave Me Life (IU Press, 2007), she candidly discusses the on-campus racial tensions during her time as an IU student.
After graduating in 1964, Bell made a beeline out of the state, never intending to return. But in 2002, she did come back, with nine books already published and plans to write a novel. Instead, she wrote the memoir.
“It turned out to be an even smarter choice than I had realized,” Bell explains, “The IU library and the university archives had resources that were invaluable in preparing my manuscript.”
Bell’s son is comedian and CNN television host W. Kamau Bell.
Jim Canary: Keeper of Kerouac’s Scroll
At l7, Jim Canary read Jack Kerouac’s book The Dharma Bums (1958) and made a decision to be a dharma bum himself. He’d live in the woods, read and write poetry, study Buddhism, and lead a life of simplicity. Along the way, Canary’s love of books led him to become a professional bookbinder. Today, he is head of Special Collections Conservation at The Lilly Library, and in a wonderful coincidence, Canary’s job makes him the official caretaker of Kerouac’s original manuscript of his novel On the Road.
“Being associated with this manuscript keeps me in touch with my dharma-bum nature!” he says. “That’s a challenge in this day and age.”
Errek Suhr: A Hometown Walk-On Who Made It
Errek Suhr may be among the most popular players ever to don a Hoosier basketball uniform. His hard- nose, scrappy, take-one-for-the-team play endeared him not only to Indiana University fans but also basketball fans everywhere.
Suhr started all four years at Bloomington High School North, was captain his junior and senior years, and voted to the Indiana All-Star Team.
Suhr passed on several scholarships to smaller universities when Coach Mike Davis invited him to walk on at IU. “I could never pass up the chance to play here,” he says. “It was a dream to play here, to be part of Indiana basketball.”
Douglas Hofstadter: Pulitzer Prize Winner
Indiana University professor Douglas Hofstadter recently celebrated the release of his new book, I Am a Strange Loop.
“The questions that this book is about obviously are the central questions of what is it to be human: Who are we? What are we? What is life?” Hofstadter explains.
A Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Computer Science and director of IU’s Center for Research on Conceptions and Cognition, Hofstadter has published dozens of books and articles. His 1979 book, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, won a Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award.
Craig Brenner: Bloomington’s Boogie-Woogie Man
Craig Brenner has been listening intently to music, especially piano music, for most of his life. He came to Bloomington in the mid-1970s to study at the Indiana University School of Music. Since then, he has established himself as one of the better boogie-woogie piano players and composers in the country. He plays about 75 gigs a year and has performed with and opened for luminaries including B.B. King, Buckwheat Zydeco, and Queen Ida.
“What I love about being a musician in Bloomington is that you can be a working musician but also have a normal, stable life,” says Brenner, who works full time for the City of Bloomington.
In 2015, Brenner founded the annual Bloomington Blues & Boogie Woogie Piano Festival.