Going All the Way

Dateline: Fri 20 Jul 2012

Have all of you read Dan Wakefield's novel, which Kurt Vonnegut said might have been more aptly named, "Having Sex in Indianapolis"?

"Going All the Way" is a wonderful book, all the more so because Wakefiled walks the reader through Indianapolis: Shortridge High School is Shortley (and the inspiration in part for my favorite menacing line in the book, "It's getting dark inside," which is used as a springboard for looking at race relations in the city in the 1950s); the Red Key tavern is really the Red Key; Winthrop and  Carvel Avenues, where Wakefield grew up, are themselves; L.S. Ayres, Monument Circle, Manual Tech High, Crown Hill Cemetery, North United Methodist Church, Broad Ripple, the John Birch Society -- it's all there.

The geographic/local references are simply the frosting on the cake, however. The real treat is in the cake itself: a rich three-layer which explores coming-of-age identity, insecurity/low self-esteem that borders on mental illness and plain old but very pointed horniness (the masculine variety, circa the repressed 1950s).

And oh God, let's not forget religion. Part of the tension in the book is the religiosity of main character Sonny Burns' mom. Her Bible Belt beliefs are pitted against Sonny's own very angry sentiments (roughly described as F--- you, God.") Sonny's mother turns everything gooey and sticky and suffocating, from the breakfasts she serves her only son (Fudge Ripple ice cream over raspberry tarts...) to her frequent overblown emotional outbursts.

And then there's Gunner Casselman, the real hero of the book. And his mom. 

Well, if you have already read it, you know all about it. If you have not, be sure to do so. And even if you have, you may want to re-read it, as I have this summer.

The occasion of course is that author Wakefield is back in Indy. So get yourself a copy on Amazon or at the library, rev up your book group, whatever. Fine book, great distraction from the summer's heat and drought.



Duke [unverified] said:

Yeah, I liked the local color, but why does he place the Red Key at 54th and College? He was two blocks off. Couldn't he have a shed a pair of Indianapolis eyes to look this over before it went to print? Literary license does not apply.

2012-07-20 10:50:56

George Stuteville [unverified] said:

When I first started working at The Star, I intended to immerse myself in all things Indianapolis. I was using Dan Wakefield, Kurt Vonnegut and others as my guides. So, when it came time to experience the Red Key, what I found was the Jazz Kitchen! A few drinks and tunes later, I wandered down the street and found the Red Key with its dollars tacked to the ceiling -- clouds amid the dangling model airplanes. Gosh, I really miss Indy. And I would love, love to go to one of Wakefield's workshops.

2012-07-20 11:08:51

Dan Wakefield [unverified] said:

Thanks! I hope you send this to IU press! By the way they are publishing a terrific novel by Barb Shoup that recreates the whole student protest times of the 'sixties and early 'seventies, set in Bloomington. Its called "An AMerican Tune" and whie reading it I in fact started thinking of the songs of the era - pople I'd forgot about like Phil Ochs, Jefferson Airplane, Mamas and Papas.

2012-07-23 11:25:48

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Two stream-of-unconciousness thoughts from someone who hasn't read the book (but I probably will).

1. I would like to hear the perceptions of this book from an African/American who grew up in Indianapolis during that time. I have read a lot about the Crispus Attucks academic/basketball accomplishments during that era - but yet they were often subjected to terrible civic indignities.

2. How would have Wakefield's experiences/perceptions been changed had SSRI anti-depressants been in use during the 1950s?

2012-07-23 12:57:28

varangianguard [unverified] said:

Mr. Wakefield's book was on my English 101 (Grammar!) reading list at IU (well, quite a while ago). I still have it laying about somewhere with the rest of my book collection. I always liked that book.

2012-07-23 13:27:30

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

"a terrific novel by Barb Shoup that recreates the whole student protest times of the 'sixties and early 'seventies, set in Bloomington. Its called "An AMerican Tune"

Now that's what I'm talkin' about! :)

I'm probably going to be in that book somewhere since I played out most of my student radicalism and cosmic debris in Bloomington during that era.

2012-07-23 14:37:40

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