The Manufactured History of Indianapolis

Published by We Are City | purchase

The Manufactured History of Indianapolis reminds readers that histories are not always just made. Sometimes they are made up. Folklore, faded memories, and misunderstandings are an important part of the way people understand a place and its past. Irrational beliefs and fabricated memories feel undeniably real to the person who holds them. In turn, they become part of the reality of how that person experiences the world. The molded memories that Reeves incorporates into his manufactured history prompt readers to interrogate—and perhaps develop—their own potentially apocryphal beliefs about the history of Indianapolis. In this book, Reeves invites readers to develop memories of that which remains unseen.”

—Laura Holzman

A man believed his only chance at justice was taking a hostage and marching him downtown. An idealistic dancer packed the theater yet she was cast out by the city. One hundred years ago, a sprawling asylum on the west side housed the broken and wounded. Today a global corporation on the other side of town modifies our brain chemistry and tinkers with the size of cows. Meanwhile a man searches for ghosts in the basement of a rowdy bar that was once a convent. And last night the police arrested a homeless man when he asked a woman for a quarter to catch the bus. These things bleed into the subconscious of a city, even if you do not see them when looking up at the majestic columns and gargoyles that commemorate bloody moments that seem like they happened in a distant land.

The Manufactured History of Indianapolis blends historical fact, urban legends, and speculative fiction into a world of haunted houses, kidnappers, peacemakers, and old-timers like Troublemaker and Carly Dee. This is a wide-angle portrait of what might be the most American city.

Produced as part of a four-week writer’s residency in Indianapolis in partnership with We Are City, the Center for Urban Ecology at Butler University, and Indiana University Center for Art + Design. Inspired by the methodology of Surrealism and the madness of Dada, the Bureau of Manufactured History was a collaboration between the composer Oliver Blank and writer James A. Reeves that explored the unconscious content of cities.

Isadora Ain’t Foolin’ Me Any

The Manufactured History of Indianapolis

“If she goes pulling off her clothes and throwin’ them in the air like she did in Boston, there’s gonna be somebody getting a ride in the paddy wagon.”

The Dead Man’s Line

The Manufactured History of Indianapolis

“People in other countries take hostages for political reasons. Americans do it for real estate.”

She Watches Eli Lilly at Midnight

The Manufactured History of Indianapolis

From the rooftop of a cheap hotel stained with weather and time, a woman gazes across the city at the global headquarters of Eli Lilly & Company.