FAMOUS IAN WOOLLEN QUOTE: "I grew up in Kurt Vonnegut’s house in Indianapolis. Vonnegut came back to visit a couple times when I was a kid. My dad was an architect (like Vonnegut’s dad) and, on one of the visits, my father apologized to Kurt for eliminating the master bedroom upstairs in order to create a two-story living room. Vonnegut said, “Don’t worry. I heard so much fighting between my parents coming from that bedroom that I’m glad it’s gone.”
Woollen, a psychotherapist when he’s not writing, moved to Bloomington with his wife in 1986 so she could pursue a music degree. “We’re the proverbial graduate students who never left,” he once told a reporter there, smiling. “There are still things I’m discovering about Bloomington.
“As you can tell, I’m very attached to Indianapolis stories,” he added. “Place and story are intimately connected. If you have a strong feeling for a place, you can’t go wrong.”
Ian was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2009. A week after receiving the news, he started writing a novel titled Uncle Anton. “It helped me stay focused,” he told a reporter in Indiana. “It gave me something to think about rather than cancer. I’m [seven] years out now and all clear.”
Ian was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana. Going off to boarding school at age 14, he later graduated from Yale University and Christian Theological Seminary. His job history includes house painter, furniture stripper, script reader, psychotherapist. And novelist!
-- Dan Bloom, The Cli-Fi Report
Here's some background info:
Born in Scotland in 1838, John Muir came to the United States with his parents at age 11, where he grew up on a farm in Wisconsin. Life on the farm was difficult, but the surrounding woods and fields provided Muir with an escape. He was an inventor who won prizes at the state fair and earned good grades at the University of Wisconsin. In 1867, however, following an industrial accident that left him temporarily blind in one eye, Muir decided to leave the world of mechanized society.
As later described in A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf, the 10th of Muir’s dozen books, he began this new life in nature by walking from Indiana to Florida. From there he traveled to Cuba and Panama, then crossed the Isthmus and sailed north to California. In 1868, when he entered the Sierra Mountains and what would become Yosemite National Park, Muir found the region of his dreams.
Extolling the natural beauty of this area, Muir became America’s most famous and influential conservationist. In 1892 he and his supporters founded the Sierra Club, which he served as president for the rest of his life, “to do something for wildness.” His books like The Mountains of California (1894) and Our National Parks (1901) attracted the attention of President Theodore Roosevelt, among others, who after meeting Muir was inspired to promote a wide range of innovative conservation programs for America.
Other books like The Yosemite (1912) and Travels in Alaska (1915), plus hundreds of magazine articles, continued to describe the importance of what was then a unique idea, that of protecting our natural resources. Muir — personally involved in the creation of Yosemite, Sequoia, Mount Rainier, Petrified Forest, and Grand Canyon National Parks — became known as ‘the Father of our National Parks,’ and the ‘wilderness prophet.’ He called himself ‘a Citizen of the Universe,’ and urged people to “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.”
EVEN MORE NOTES:
Stephen J. Taylor in Indianapolis writes:
John Muir’s Vision Lost and Found
Mystics and scientists alike have often found that there’s a strange algebra to the universe. From tiny cosmological beginnings, we have the immensity of all that is, says the Big Bang Theory. A host of old creation stories concur.
In the history of the American environmental movement, one of the original “Big Bang” events — the puncturing of John Muir’s right eye by an awl, which caused him to temporarily go blind in both eyes — happened at a factory on Indianapolis’ Old Southside. Though this was the most frightening and soul-shattering event in the young Muir’s life, somewhere in the weird matrix of fate, we can trace the survival of California’s Yosemite Valley and Muir’s deep love for the high Sierra Nevada, for the beauty of rocks and redwoods, to the intense crisis he underwent after that terrifying accident in Indiana in 1867.
Born thirty miles east of Edinburgh on Scotland’s southeastern coast in 1838, Muir was the third of 8 children. Given an intense and very Scottish religious upbringing — what environmental historian Mark Stoll calls the “hard and humorless religion” of his father Daniel — he eventually memorized most of the Old Testament and all of the New. In later years Muir departed from his evangelical background and proclaimed a “wilderness gospel,” but his strict Presbyterian roots were critical to him, if for no other reason than that his father, finding the Church of Scotland not strict enough, moved the family in 1849 to the wilds of frontier Wisconsin. Muir grew up in rural Marquette County, a few miles east of Portage, in a community of fervent Campbellite Presbyterians intent on restoring primitive Christianity.
Though he intended to eventually go down to the Caribbean and South America, the newcomer quickly and easily found work at Osgood, Smith & Co., a carriage factory at 230 South Illinois Street. This shop was located barely two blocks south of Indianapolis Union Station, at the intersection of Illinois and Merrill Streets. Pogue’s Run, not yet channeled through underground tunnels, ran nearby. The spot today, just east of the towering Lucas Oil Stadium, is occupied by an Indianapolis Post Office distribution center, one of the biggest concrete eyesores in town — appropriate, perhaps, considering what happened to John Muir’s eyes here. In a certain accounting of destiny, this spot was the birthplace of Yosemite National Park.
Listed as a sawyer in Edward’s Annual Directory for 1867, Muir boarded at 331 South Pennsylvania Street. Wowed by their new employee’s skills, owners J. R. Osgood and S. E. Smith nearly made him a partner in their business. As a supervisor, he earned $25 a week. If fate hadn’t intervened, the wagon and carriage manufacturing company might have become known as Osgood, Smith & Muir.
During his year-and-a-half stay in Indy, Muir became close friends with Catherine Merrill. Her father was Samuel Merrill, a prominent early Hoosier who helped move the capitol from Corydon and later served as a temperance advocate and the second president of the Indiana Historical Society. Catherine had studied literature in Germany before teaching at Wabash College in Crawfordsville. She was also a Union nurse in Kentucky during the Civil War. In 1867, Merrill became Butler University’s first female professor and one of the first women to teach at a university anywhere in the U.S. Muir called her “the first friend I found in Indiana.”
Though a May 25, 1913, article in the Indianapolis Star mentioned that Muir knew a certain visitor to town — archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, discoverer of Troy, who came here to take advantage of Indiana’s lax divorce laws — the Star was wrong. Schliemann came in 1869 and only stayed for a few months. He did own land on the Old Southside, however. Before Schliemann went to Turkey to dig up ancient Troy, he held title to land that became the parking lot at Shapiro’s Deli. In his will, he left his daughter Nadezhda some other property now occupied by Lilly’s downtown campus, a short walk from where John Muir worked.
“I am completely prostrated and the eye is lost. I have been confined to bed since the accident and for the first two or three days could not eat or drink a mouthful, but I am a little better today and hope to be at work again in a month or two. I am condemned by the doctor to a dark room for some 2 weeks. I am surprised that from apparently so small a shock my whole system should be so completely stunned… My love to all, John Muir. I have written at random and in the dark but hope you will be able to read my meaning.”
Another letter to his mother, penned in the room in Indianapolis where he was kept sheltered from light, shows his handwriting trailing off as he struggled to write a straight line across the page. Toward the end, some of his words overlap. Though striking a confident note to his mother, privately Muir slipped into a deep existential crisis and depression. He wrote this letter while nursed by friends and a helpful Indianapolis family who took him into their home at Union and McCarty Streets.
Muir received several letters from his concerned family and friends. His brother David offered to take the train down to Indianapolis and bring him home. One beautiful letter came from his friend Jeanne C. Carr. Carr was married to the pioneer Wisconsin geologist Ezra Slocum Carr, who taught natural science at the University of Wisconsin before he took a professorship in 1869 at the University of California-Berkeley. Dr. Carr first got to know the talented Muir after seeing his fabulous “whittled” clocks at the Wisconsin State Fair. Jeanne Carr, who remained a close friend, kept up a correspondence with Muir for the next thirty years. From Madison, she struck a comforting religious — even Transcendentalist — tone as she wrote to her friend in Indiana on March 15, 1867:
I grieve, as your sister might, at this news which has come today — that God has been leading you into the darkness, and long to be able to minister to your comfort while the burden of pain and weakness and loneliness is to be borne. What can I do, now, while you are so far from us, but whisper some of those sweet promises which fasten the soul to the source of Light and Life? …It is hard, dear friend, it seems cruel, but let us look away beyond the suffering of the present, let us believe that nothing is without meaning and purpose which comes from the Father’s hand…
I am glad to feel that you will see more with one visual organ than most persons could with half a dozen… And then you will come here and we will be eyes for you. The Cordilleras & the Amazon will stay in their places. They are waiting — have waited thousands of years to be set to music. The Queen of the Antilles will be as beautiful in her next year’s green as now. You will take a richer heart, and a clearer mind, with which to interpret them, for this retirement. Dear John. I have often in my heart wondered what God was training you for. He gave you the eye within the eye, to see in all natural objects the realized ideas of His mind. He gave you pure tastes, and the steady preference of whatsoever is most lonely and excellent. He has made you a more individualized existence than is common…
I am getting a dimness in my eyes thinking of yours and must say good night. Make your mark now and then, dear, on these envelopes, for better or worse as you feel. I can read your “worsest words” and am always your loving friend — Jeanne Carr
In response, Muir diagrammed a drawing of the injured eye for Carr. Some of their correspondence has been published.
This jaunt was just a quick prelude to the next great episode in Muir’s life. In August, he rode the train back to Indianapolis. Thankful, and elated at his restored vision, Muir swore to see the wider world at last. Later in life he wrote of this decision: “I bade adieu to all my mechanical inventions, determined to devote the rest of my life to the study of the inventions of God.” Striking out from Indianapolis on September 1, he took the train through southern Indiana as far as Jeffersonville. Once he got to Louisville, he then walked all the way to Florida. Muir told this story in his book A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf. After traveling to Havana, Cuba, he set out “by a crooked route” — bound for California at last.
William Frederic Badè, The Life and Letters of John Muir, Houghton-Mifflin, 1924
Mark R. Stoll, Inherit the Holy Mountain: Religion and the Rise of American Environmentalism, Oxford University Press, 2015
John Muir, Spiritual Writings, Orbis Books, 2013
Bonnie J. Gisel, ed., Kindred and Related Spirits: The Letters of John Muir and Jeanne C. Carr, University of Utah Press, 2001.
AND EVEN MORE LITERARY AND PR NOTES:
This blogger and literary sleuth has an inner radar feeling that ian Woollen's novel will be a big hit with both literati and climatrati when published in July 2017. One can envision a big nytimes feature story about the book, in addition to a review in Sunday book section. The Muir name guarantees wide media attention.
Also if it can be arranged for an NPR interview with the author either with DC bureau or his own Indianapolis npr station ...NPR radio is huge for book news and reaches key players in print media too...it will be good PR.
And... a good feature story in his local news paper there with a reporter will be useful for AP wire to pick up and send on its national wire. So our radar envisions ...a nyt front page feature article with a top reporter there ....an NPR interview ....and a local hometown newspaper feature
So called "off the book page" coverage will be vital. Reviews are important, yes, but feature stories about Ian and the genesis of this Muir novel and the tragicomic theme will be most useful for prime PR.