The Voice of the Middle West
The Voice of the Middle West is a novel about a deaf man named Claude Hunter Jr. Hunter's life is traced from infancy to age 30, 1933-1963. The setting is a small southern Iowa town called Calliope and moves occasionally to the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. Claude is raised by foster parents, Peter and Rachel Benjamin. Peter is the minister of Calliope Christian Church. The novel also deals with radio station WHY, a Des Moines station which goes on the air in 1933. Of particular interest is a broadcaster Clay Brooks, a native of Calliope. The Voice of the Middle West is a novel which has been a long time in the writing. It began with a love for radio. Much of my own life is in the novel for I was a foster child and I grew up in two small Iowa towns. My experience working at the State Fair and as a Christian Church minister is also important. But the key factor is the awareness of deafness which my wife brought to me. Because she is an interpreter, we have many deaf friends and it was crucially important that my lead character be real, that he be meaningful and human. This above all else was my goal in writing. Of nearly equal importance to me was the creation of a significant and real "place." Iowa is a great mystical mother; I want her to be portrayed accurately, her people to be real. Of those writers who influenced my thinking in preparing this novel, I feel most indebted to William Faulkner, T. S. Eliot, Harper Lee and William Styron. It is Eliot's Wasteland which sets my philosophical mood. The deaf person in our age is still trapped in Eliot's Wasteland. He is trapped because our generation has not learned, as Eliot suggests, to give, sympathize, and control ourselves in regard to this handicap. Faulkner taught me love of place. I've travelled all over his mythical county, talked to the models of his characters, and studied how he matched the word to the place. He taught me how to love my place in writing, and I want to keep practicing this art. Harper Lee taught me how to explore children's minds and how to be poetic without overdoing it. I'm eager to do more work with this word craft, too. Styron was both a positive and negative influence upon me. I loved Lie Down in Darkness because I thought he performed an extension of Faulkner and Eliot. In some ways, this book was an attempt to do likewise. But I was offended by his negative attitude toward modern religion, and I wanted to present a more positive picture. In summary, it is most difficult to sit in judgment of one's own work. Sometimes I feel like Ann Bradstreet who referred to her book of poems as "my rambling brat in print." The book is mine, and I am proud of it, but the best lesson I learned from it is that I must now write another. I simply must, and I shall. I discovered that I could write while teaching and taking classes, and now I propose to do just that, again and again.
195 leaves. Advisor: Hilary Masters