New Butler podcast captures best-selling stories, memories of ‘Vonnegut’s oldest friend’

English Professor Susan Neville (left) and best-selling author Dan Wakefield (right)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Butler University has announced a new memoir-style podcast series featuring interviews with best-selling author Dan Wakefield.

Wakefield, author of Going All the Way and Starting Over, covered historic events like the first foreign press interview with former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, wrote about the Emmett Till trial for magazines like The Atlantic and The Nation, and is considered Kurt Vonnegut’s oldest living friend.

“Talking with Susan, I’m remembering a lot of things,” Wakefield said. “I feel like there’s a big hole in our history and in Indianapolis, like the great jazz scene we had here. A lot of if isn’t mentioned in a lot of places so I’m glad to be able to talk about that.”

According to the school, English Professor Susan Neville has devoted the past several months gathering Wakefield’s chronicles to create Naptown Season One: A Memoir of the 20th Century in the halls of Irwin Library.

“He’s a great storyteller and I wanted to capture those stories,” says Neville, “These episodes will be kind of his memoir, only done through interviews.”

Butler said Neville received a $2,000 grant from the Indiana Humanities Council to assist with the production of the 20 episode podcast.

The podcast showcases different chapters of Wakefield’s life, which started in Broad Ripple, Indiana, continued to New York City as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter, then to academia in Florida, and back to Indianapolis.

“Once he gets on a roll, he gets on a roll,” says Neville with a laugh. “I was a journalism major as an undergrad and have written a lot of freelance feature articles, so I’m used to doing interviews. Recording a podcast is a combination of radio and the print journalism I’m used to.”

Dan Wakefield (left) and Susan Neville (right) work to produce “Naptown Season One: A Memoir of the 20th Century”

Neville first met Wakefield when he was a graduate writing professor at Florida International University and Neville was a guest speaker at the Seaside Writers Conference.

Wakefield paid close attention to Neville’s career, which includes creative nonfiction works Sailing the Inland Sea, Iconography, and Indiana Winter.

“Susan Neville is the best author today in this city and state,” said Wakefield, noting her 2019 Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction award for her collection of short stories The Town of Whispering Dolls.

“I feel very lucky to be doing this with her. I feel very comfortable,” Wakefield continued, “We have sort of the same literary outlook and framework. We share the same prejudices about writers we like and admire. I know whatever I talk about, she will understand what I’m talking about.”

Butler University believes students will get to know much more about Wakefield, Vonnegut, and 20th century American literature in a fresh format thanks to Neville and the Naptown podcast.

All 20 episodes will be released at once on iTunes, Wakefield’s website, Irwin Library’s website, and Butler’s Digital Commons in May to celebrate Wakefield’s 88th birthday.

Neville said Season Two will consist of Vonnegut interviews she conducted in 1989 and 1990, which currently exists only on microcassettes.

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