October 3rd, 2016

Hoosier Hysterical

Review of Hoosier Hysterical in Whatzup

Actually, a great review of Hoosier Hysterical in Whatzup, the Fort Wayne area weekly publication. That’s the good news: The bad news is that, due to the crash (mine, not theirs) and other considerations, I’m only just now getting around to telling you about it—it came out in the September 1-7 issue.

The link to that issue is here:  http://whatzup.com/index.php?f=Viewer&page=160901_artmoves

But it was a little hard for me to navigate the back issues. It’s on page 23, but I wasn’t able to see it well until I brought it up as a pdf. Reviewer Evan Gillespie calls me a “pretty funny guy”—my wife called me that once, but if you’d heard the sarcasm in her voice …
It’s a great publication, so seek it out when you can. But since Gillespie’s review was a month ago, I’ll try to paste it here:

“Tippecanoe and Other Stuff”
Hoosier Hysterical by Mark R. Hunter, 2016

Just in time for Indiana’s bicentennial comes a
new history book that compiles everything notable
about our fair state through the ages into one tidy
volume. Yes, it’s a book about Indiana history, but
it is worth reading anyway, not just because you really
should know something about the state in which
you live (and in which you were probably born and
raised, too) but because it’s written by Noble County
native Mark R. Hunter, and he’s a pretty funny guy.
His take on Indiana history is thorough but irreverent,
and even if you have to cast a skeptical eye on some
of his historical claims (I honestly don’t think the
prehistoric mounds in central Indiana
were actually ancient outhouses),
you’ll probably learn some new
true facts about your state by the
time you’ve finished the book.

In Hoosier Hysterical, Hunter
begins almost at the very beginning
of Indiana history. He doesn’t
start with the Hoosier state congealing
out of a mass of molten goo as the
Earth’s crust solidified, but he picks
up the story just a little later, when the
first humans wandered into the land we
know so well.

“Some of them made their way to
Central America, discovered chocolate,
and lived in paradise,” he writes. “Others t o o k
a wrong turn while circling Indianapolis, and boy, is
that easy to do. They settled in the Midwest, imported
corn from the much happier natives of Central America,
and the rest is history.”

That history is the story that Hunter tells, from the
settling of the eventual state by those early natives, to
the later infiltration of the land by Europeans, to the
centuries that the Indiana territory spent as a wilderness
battleground where those Europeans fought off
the natives and each other, established forts and settlements,
and generally made a mess of things.

Hunter’s journey through Indiana’s history is long
and detailed, but it sticks closely to the highlights
you’d find in a drier, not so fun history book in school.
You’ll find out about William Henry Harrison and Tecumseh
and Anthony Wayne and Tippecanoe and all
those other famous names that you’ve heard about at
one time or another but can’t quite remember what it
was that you were supposed to remember about them.
The book’s heavy on what happened before the state
was a state, and what happened during the first hundred
years that it was a state. The second hundred
years, not so much.

Hunter augments the history, though, with trivia
– which is very closely related to history when
you think about it. He gives us explanations of
Indiana’s symbols (did you know Indiana has
an official state rock?) and he crafts loving,
if silly stories about all those Indiana things
we’ve come to love by living here all our
lives. He even tackles the greatest of all
Hoosier mysteries, the origin of the word
“Hoosier.” Of course, he doesn’t provide
a convincing theory of the word’s origination-(
no one ever has or ever will) but
at least he has fun trying.

There are also many chapters
about things that make Indiana special:
the Indianapolis 500, the many famous
people who were born here, the movies
and TV shows that were either set or filmed in Indiana,
the state’s many parks and natural attractions and
many other tidbits and minutiae. Did you know that
the famous Coca-Cola bottle design was created in
Terre Haute? Neither did I, but now we both do. These
are the kinds of things that make it possible to live
with even a tiny bit of pride in a state that rarely makes
it to the top of the lists of really important things.

We native Hoosiers have spent our lives in a
state of constant self-deprecation. We’ve had to, having
been born in a state that most other Americans
wouldn’t be able to find on a map. We’ve learned how
to gently mock the state of our birth while maintaining
a quiet affection for a place that is actually pretty nice
if you really pay attention to it. That’s a balance that
Hunter holds quite well throughout Hoosier Hysterical,
and the book is one more Hoosier product that we
can be proud of.
book cover humor

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