Timothy G. Anderson’s biography Lonesome Dreamer: The Life of John G. Neihardt took shape over several decades.
The author, now retired but until last year a professor of journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, met Neihardt at a book signing in 1972 when he was a student at the same school. But it was while on vacation many years later that things really started to spark. From Jeff Korbelik’s great piece this weekend in the Lincoln Journal Star:
Anderson and his wife, Nancy, took a trip to Sweden in 1995. They stayed at a friend’s house who was away at the time. Unable to sleep one night, Anderson looked through his friend’s library for something to read. Only two books were in English, a Willa Cather novel Anderson had given his friend and Neihardt’s Black Elk Speaks, a book Anderson hadn’t read since college.
“So I reread Black Elk Speaks in Sweden, and I remember telling Nancy at breakfast one morning ‘I think I’m going to look into this guy.’”
When he returned to New York, he called his parents back in his home state, sharing stories about Sweden and his idea to research Neihardt. His mother, “being typical of small-town Nebraska,” where everybody knows everybody, said “You know his daughter [Hilda] lives in Tekamah, you should call her.”
And so he did.
Before teaching, Anderson worked at The New York Times and Newsday. He eventually wrote a Master’s thesis on Neihardt when he went back to school, and tells Korbelik he initially thought his efforts might produce a magazine feature article.
The aforementioned Black Elk Speaks is a 1932 book that recounts the life of an Oglala Lakota tribe medicine man. Anderson’s biography is out today.
Back cover image courtesy: Bison Books