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Susan NevilleSusan Neville
(1951- )

Hoosier Connection: Susan Neville was born and has lived in Indianapolis most of her life. Her writings explore the way Indiana's history and landscape shapes its inhabitants. She focuses on the silences and solitude associated with life in the Midwest, especially in Indiana.

Works Discussed: Indiana Winter, The House of Blue Lights, Fabrications

Susan Neville was born on January 4, 1951, in Indianapolis, to John Frederick, a businessman, and Patricia (Pointer), a secretary. In 1973, she married Ken Neville. The year she was married, she also received her B.A. from DePauw University. In 1976, she earned an M.F.A. from Bowling Green State University. Neville has been an instructor at several colleges, including St. Petersburg Junior College (St. Petersburg, Florida), Ball State University (Muncie, Indiana), and IU—East (Richmond, Indiana), before settling into her professorship in the English department at Butler University in Indianapolis.

Neville’s work reveals, and simultaneously celebrates, the history, despair, and sameness involved in the lives of Indiana residents and those of Midwestern people in general.

Neville begins her book, Indiana Winter (1994), with a preface in which she explains the origin of the short stories she has written for this collection: “I wandered through Indiana with a question that was very quirkily mine, and which, for good or ill, drew certain types of images and stories from the people and the landscape as though it were magnetized” (xii). Although much of this book has to do with winter's seasonal effect on fictional characters, Neville does include some descriptions of the natural surroundings, or in this case the natural underground, of Indiana:

My home is a harbor. It floats on limestone high above the Ohio. Underneath our feet, acids eat away the stone and there are underground rivers and caves and, I swear it, if you were small enough and didn't mind tight black places, darker than any dark you could imagine, and you could crawl through slime and rushing water through tunnels that could end with any step in a cavern so deep you would never stop falling.... (1)

Neville explores the effects of the Indiana landscape on fictional characters in her later work In the House of Blue Lights (1998), which won the Richard Sullivan Prize from the University of Notre Dame. It too is a collection of short stories, many of which are based on true events. As in Indiana Winter, Neville focuses more heavily on descriptions of desolation and solitude, rather than on environmental issues. However, many of her stories, at one point or another, focus on an element of Indiana's environment. For example, in the story "The Increasing Distance," the narrator comments on the effects of urban sprawl and deforestation in Indianapolis:

Just west of the new strip mall is an entire neighborhood recently made from a golf course which was recently made from the farmland which was recently made from a forest so dense it echoed the darkness of the sky when the carrier pigeons made their northward migration. (149)

Neville’s latest book, Fabrications: Essays on Making Things and Making Meaning (2001), explores manufacturing in Indiana. Neville also deals with the nostalgia associated with pieces of Indiana's history that have been replaced by something new. For example, in the short story “Silo Dreams,” Neville describes the feelings she faces when she learns that a silo she had previously visited is now nonexistent, just one year later. She discusses the “plans” for the silo’s space:

The new plan for the area centered around images that had no inherent connection with Indiana’s past, but rather to its place in the future, a future that would privilege fiber optics and virtual experiences, and electronic connections between the park and the citizens of Indiana. (206)

Neville thus draws connections and disconnections between the historical and present landscape of Indiana. Here and throughout the collection, she focuses on the way the "constructed" or "manufactured" is counterpoint to the natural world.

So it goes with much of Neville's work, which often deals with the way the natural environment fits into the historical landscape and the lives of Indiana's people.



Neville, Susan. Fabrication: Essays on Making Things and Making Meaning. San Francisco: MacMurry & Beck, 2001.

---. Indiana Winter. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1994.

---. In the House of Blue Lights. Notre Dame: U of Notre Dame P, 1998.

---. Personal interview. 14 October 2002.


"Susan Neville." Author Profile. Macadam/Cage Publishing, San Francisco. 22 Oct. 2002 <http://www.macadamcage.com/sitefiles/AuthorDetail_new.


Interview with Susan Neville