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6 Literary Hotspots Every English Major Should Visit
By Jenny Childers, English Major

In the age of digital technology, where all the books we might want are just a click of a button away, some book lovers worry that bookstores, libraries, and that new book smell are becoming obsolete. This is not, however, true for Indianapolis. This makes sense, seeing as Indianapolis is home to many well-known figures in literature: John Green, Booth Tarkington, Roxane Gay, Kurt Vonnegut, and James Whitcomb Riley, to name just a few. That’s pretty neat in itself. But what makes it even cooler is that IUPUI is in the middle of it all!

So, if you're an English student, or a lover of lit and looking for something to do over summer break, or on the weekends, here's your handy guide to the literary sites around Indy.

1. Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library
340 N. Senate Ave.

Kurt Vonnegut, famous for such satirical classics as Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions, was very vocal during his life about his love for Indianapolis. He said once, “All my jokes are Indianapolis. All my attitudes are Indianapolis. My adenoids are Indianapolis. If I ever severed myself from Indianapolis, I would be out of business. What people like about me is Indianapolis.”

Not only was he a Hoosier, and proud to be one, but his love for the city imparted a sense of pride and unique culture to the people of Indianapolis.

Since he is one of the most famous names to hail from the city, it only seems logical that there would be a small museum dedicated to him and his writings, which is exactly what The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library is.

The library houses relics that once belonged to Vonnegut, family photos, and a cozy nook which is a reproduction of his own home office. Vonnegut LibraryAmong the books on display are a few foreign editions of his books and a replica of the blue typewriter he used to write many of his books. Visitors are even allowed to type on it. (The real typewriter sits in a glass case, also found in the library’s gallery.) Vonnegut was also fond of doodling, and some of his quirky, modernist illustrations can be found framed, hanging on the walls.

Not only does the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library house some interesting artifacts, knowledgeable guides will answer any questions you may have. The staff and volunteers also compile an annual literary journal called So It Goes, which revolves around a different theme every year. The most recent theme was social justice. Some of the past themes include: war and peace, humor, and creativity. According to the library’s website, the journal’s content is about fifty-five percent military veteran submissions. But everyone, military personnel or not, is welcome to submit their work. The journal is published each November during Vonnegutfest—a weekend-long celebration commemorating the author with readings from various works, movie showings, panel discussions, food, live entertainment, and more. (So It Goes is now accepting submissions for its 2017 issue; you can find more information about it here.)

The event held by The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library that seems to draw the biggest turn out is "Banned Books Week," which takes place every fall. This week-long celebration features panels from authors whose books have boasted some controversial content, readings from some famous banned books, discussions on censorship and media, lunches, and more.

There are also a few ways for students to get involved. The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library is always looking for volunteers to help out at special museum events. It also works with IUPUI in offering positions for student internships.

Even if you're not a Vonnegut fan when you enter the museum, the rich history of the writer and the endearing way  the guides talk about him, will almost certainly make you emerge as one.

2. James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home
528 Lockerbie Street

James Whitcomb Riley Museum HouseThe James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home is a warm and inviting space for literature lovers who also have a love for history. The home was originally owned by Charles and Magdalena Holstein, who invited Riley to board with them in 1893. The home was shut down shortly after Riley's death in 1916 and the death of Magdalena Holstein the same year; it re-opened to the public in 1922. Thus, nearly everything in it from the furniture to the door handles is exactly the same as it was when Riley was still alive.

"Most historic homes…are about eighty to ninety percent restoration, and ten to twenty percent original," museum manager, Chris Mize said. "We're kind of the opposite of that. We're about ninety percent original, and ten percent restoration."

James Whitcomb Riley has been slightly overshadowed by other famous and more

contemporary Indiana authors like Kurt Vonnegut and John Green. But, back in his day, Riley was like a rock star. He was well known and well loved by everyone. His fans, who hailed from all over the country, bought up his poems like records. They attended his poetry readings like they were concerts.

Riley also carried with him the spirit of a true Hoosier. He wrote in an early "Hoosier" dialect, often wrote about Indiana, and continued living in the state, even when he became a nationally acclaimed poet; proving you don't need to compromise personal love and integrity to be successful in your field.

Located in the charming, historic district of Lockerbie Square in the downtown area, the James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home is a place where those who love literature and creative writing can find inspiration from one of the original pioneers of Hoosier literature. Walking from your car up the cobblestone road, and up to the tall, elegant door, you will immediately be transported back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The tJames Whitcomb Riley Museum Homeour guides—in addition to being knowledgeable about their topic—are also gracious and greet guests as if they are old friends.

The interior, with its authentic, quaint decorations, is quite visually appealing, and is sure to leave you longing for times long passed.

The museum hosts poetry readings by local authors to honor the late, great poet's legacy. These readings, which happen every two months during the spring and summer, are open to the public. They also host a creative writing summer camp for kids and are considering launching something similar for adults.

If you're in the mood to learn something new, and you've got about four bucks to spare, take a temporary trip through time and pay the James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home a visit!

Photos courtesy of James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home

3. Indy Reads Books
911 Massachusetts Avenue

Indy ReadsAll bibliophiles know the feeling: You spend a pretty penny on books--and then feel guilty for throwing your money around. Luckily, with Indy Reads Books, you don’t have to feel guilty!

Located at the end of Mass Ave, Indy Reads Books is a fun and adorable non-profit bookstore. Proceeds from books purchased go toward Indy Reads, an adult literacy program. With Mass Ave being a district that is hip, modern, and creative, Indy Reads Books fits right in with its pleasantly eye-catching décor, fascinating works of art by local artists, and a collection of books that is sure to send any bookworm into ecstasy.

All used books are donations, and most of the workers are there as unpaid volunteers. The shop has a community space that is perfectly conducive to the bookish types, and also space for those who like to mingle. There are solitary armchairs if you just want to grab a book and read for a bit without being bothered, and there are also a couple of nooks with tables—perfect for a writing group, book club, or even just to sit around and catch up with old friends for a bit.

Indy Reads Books is also the hotspot for a wide selection of literary happenings in downtown Indy, hosting a plethora of events that any and everyone will find interesting. Indiana-based authors often hold readings and book signings (as you will see with their whole shelf of books written and signed by local authors) and readings. Indy ReadsThe store also partners with other popular Indy groups like the Indy Actors Playground, which hosts a play reading in the store once a month. If you’re looking for a location to host your own event, everyone is welcome to request the store as one, simply by visiting this page.

Another interesting thing that sets Indy Reads Books apart from your typical used bookstore is their "Pay What You Can" cart. This is a library cart with selected books and even a few VHS tapes. The gist of it is that you can buy up to fifteen books, for however much money you can pay for each book. Even if all you walk into the store with is one nickel, you can still walk away with both a good book, and the warm feeling of giving the gift of literacy to someone else.

And, of course, if you're a student looking to get some volunteer work on your resume, the store always welcomes volunteers, and highly encourages college students to join in. (But people of all demographics are welcome to apply.) You can apply here, if interested.

Indy Reads Books is a great place to shop if you’re looking for something new to read. But it is also a great place to shop if you want to help make a difference!

4. Books & Brews
9402 Uptown Dr., Suite 1400

Books & BrewsBooks & Brews is a quintessential hangout spot for any college student who's looking for a place to unwind on a weekend night. As the name suggests, it combines books and literature, with beer and tasty bar food. That's a combo hard to beat.

The business was started by Jason Wuerfel, who studied English in college. He was interested in finding a way of combining his love for literature, along with his interest in home-brewing. Thus, Books & Brews was born.

As of the time of this writing, Books & Brews has two locations: one in Zionsville, and another on the north side of Indy, just east of Castleton, in a block of business buildings off of 96th Street. While neither of these locations are downtown or near downtown as the other literary hotspots on this list are, they're certainly worth the drive if you're an extroverted English nerd looking for a cool place that's booming with fun, food, and literature!

Books & Brews isn't the first bar/bookstore in the world. But, Wuerfel, says it has a unique mission: To give a place to everyone. With technology being so prevalent, it can be difficult for us to disconnect and reconnect with the world around us at times. Wuerfel wanted just such a place; a place where people can disconnect for a while, mingle with the people around them, read a few books, play a few games, and of course, enjoy some great food and drink. Community and inclusiveness are what’s most important at Books & Brews.

In fact, the first thing you'll notice when you walk through the doors of Books & Brews is its welcoming, home-like atmBooks & Brewsosphere. The bar area has charmingly rustic décor, with framed literature-inspired artworks. But just because the place has “brews” in the title, does not mean it is exclusive to adults only. Though the bar area is obviously exclusive for people 21 and over, the rest of the shop is open to all ages. The bookstore portion is loaded with reading material, board games, a big couch, and even a big screen television with gaming consoles.  There is a wide variety of food options with something that will surely appeal to everyone. Books & Brews’ website boasts the “best grilled cheese in Indiana”, and the dishes are all given clever, literature inspired titles, sure to herald a few chuckles.

There are so many events that go on at Books & Brews that naming all of them could be an entire article in itself. To name just a few, though, there are themed trivia nights, open mike nights, gaming days, and much more! To get an idea of all the various, exciting happenings that go on, check out the site’s event calendar. Books & Brews also has its very own loyalty program called the Mug Club. The Mug Club is a $65 lifetime membership, and members of the Mug Club get discounts on books, merchandise, beer and even a one-of-a-kind, handmade mug. This is definitely a rewards program to check out if you love beer, books, and handmade items.

So if you're looking to go hang out at a bar on a Saturday night, but want something a little different from your typical run-of-the-mill sports bar or tavern, Books & Brews is a place worth checking out!

5. The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies
425 University Blvd.

Bradbury CenterRay Bradbury, who penned classics like Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Martian Chronicles, and others, is one of the most prolific writers of American 20th Century literature. Although Bradbury passed in 2012, thanks to the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, there is a place in Indiana for this author’s work to live on and influence people for years to come.

Located right here on IUPUI's campus, just past the Confucius Institute in Cavanaugh Hall, the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies is one of the most interesting and expansive single-author archives in the country, and a fascinating place to take a look at if you’re on campus.

The Center was started in 2007 by Chancellor’s Professor of English Jonathan Eller, who knew Ray Bradbury well, wrote books about him, and edits the scholarly edition of his Collected Stories, published by Kent State University Press.

The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies is set up like a library, every shelf being rich with old magazines that were either collected by Bradbury or had published stories by him. Its archive includes foreign editions of his books, posters of movies that were either based on his books or were directed by him. But the icing on the cake is the area that is set up to look like Bradbury's home office in his Los Angeles basement. Everything in it belonged to the writer and was used by him. There are file cabinets, old toys and decorations, his old desk, his old typewriters, even various Hollywood artifacts which were used in films or television shows based on his works. And of course, shelves full of books.

One particularly interesting advantage of the Center is that it offers one of the most in-depth looks at Bradbury and his work. Bradbury was a voracious reader who was inspired by nearly everything he read. To gain a deeper understanding of him and his works, you simply have to glance over the expansive titles on the spines of these books: Faulkner, Oscar Wilde, poetry, short story and SciFi anthologies. Knowing the books here in the Center is knowing Bradbury. For some, it may be the closest one can get to fully knowing a critically-acclaimed author in person.

The curators of the center are very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about Bradbury and the items that are in the center—which should come as no surprise, considering Eller was a friend of Bradbury’s and has studied his life and work in-depth. In addition, it is well-preserved, and a rBradbury Centerequisite place to visit if you want to understand even just a tiny bit more about Bradbury and his vast body of work.

The Center also hosts annual special month-long exhibitions every October—located in the Campus Center’s Cultural Arts Gallery. This past October, the featured exhibition was titled “Ray Bradbury’s Magical Mansions,” and featured artifacts from the Center’s archives, as well as striking paintings of mansions done by local artists, and photographs by New York photographer Elizabeth Nahum-Albright as an “exhibition-within-the-exhibition”, called “I Saw It At Ray’s House:” A Photographic Retrospective. This year, the theme will be “Ray Bradbury’s Tales of Horror” which will be fitting for Halloween, and no doubt, will feature some mighty enticing artifacts and art.

What can students get out of visiting the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies? Well, people studying English will love learning more about one of literature's most prolific writers, and will be inspired by looking at the hard work, love, and dedication that went into his creations. The Center can also aid museum studies majors too, as the Center is always expanding, and the staff is always working tirelessly to preserve all the materials, or restore them to their original luminosity.

At the moment, the Center is open to everyone, including non-IUPUI affiliates. However, since the Center is in the midst of preservation work, visitors must schedule an appointment and tour, which you can do by contacting Robin Condon at rcondon@iupui.edu

So, if you’ve got a paper to write about Ray Bradbury, or one of his stories; or even if you just want something stimulating to do in-between classes, contact the Center and set up an appointment for a tour!

Photos courtesy of The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies

6. Funky Bones Sculpture
4000 N Michigan Rd.

Funky BonesTo finish off this list, I've decided to include one of the more quirky places of interest in Indy’s literature scene. The Funky Bones sculpture at the 100 Acres park at the Indianapolis Museum of Art was featured in John Green's famous The Fault in Our Stars book, and was even replicated for the film version. It may not have any other direct ties to literature, but it's worth including because who, in the Indianapolis area, doesn't love the IMA?

Green is a proud Hoosier who made Indianapolis the setting for his 2012 best-selling novel. In the book, the sculpture is chosen as a sight for a romantic picnic--as the two protagonists wish to visit The Netherlands to meet a Dutch author, and Funky Bones is described as "the most Dutch place in Indianapolis”--being created by Dutch artists.

For those unaware, the IMA is a very popular and much loved art gallery in the city. It houses an eclectic collection of art and artifacts from all eras. It also has a beautiful garden and walking trail, where you can find the gorgeous, historic Lilly House. Just west of the museum, though, is the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park, A.K.A 100 Acres.

100 Acres is full of artsy, fascinating installation pieces, Funky Bones being just one of several. Funky Bones was put together by Joep Van Lieshout and his collective of other Dutch artists, called Atelier Van Lieshout. It was commissioned by the IMA in 2010 for 100 Acres. The IMA website describes it as "a group of 20 fiberglass benches emblazoned with depictions of bones that, together, take the form of an enormous, stylized human skeleton." From ground view, it may be a puzzling sight to see at first, but as you explore the series of benches, it becomes more and more evident that they are bones, making up a bigger skeleton.

While The Fault in Our Stars features other Indianapolis locations, Funky Bones is one that every local residenFunky Bonest and visitor should see at least once, for its charm and quirk. You can walk around it and examine it as an art piece, or you can unleash your inner child and hop around and play on it. Like any great work of art, there is no right or wrong way to enjoy it.