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.
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.