Ernie Pyle's distinctive journalistic voice is in league with one of-a kind-singers such as Caruso, Pavarotti, Sinatra, Marian Anderson. For those "of a certain age" Pyle of course appeared in print, not on a stage. For the past two-three generations Pyle has been a reference point, not a daily by-line. We've been bereft of his reports from wide ranging points – from his Dana, Ind. hometown to the trenches of World War II.
At Home with Ernie Pyle
is a gift of meeting up with the man whose simple storytelling relayed complex situations, with people at the center to give events depth of humanity and the breadth of compassion. Because I grew up listening to someone or another reading aloud Pyle's wartime columns in the national newspapers, I thumbed through the pages until I got to World War II, page 296, and read until the final posting – August 5, 1965 Guam. It's about John Taylor of 319 W. 19th Street, Indianapolis, who serves as the commanding officer at a Navy base on a remote Pacific island. John Taylor springs to life in a few sentences. I realized that I've been standing for 54 pages of reading, learning about "Hoosier boys" serving very far from home. Pyle is that engrossing.
Pyle's columns are particularly keyed to Indiana subjects during the 1930s and '40s — his hometown and family, other places and people around the state.
Orkin Exterminating in Evansville was the subject of the October 2, 1940 column.
Here's an example of the voice of Ernie Pyle:
"Several times a week the Orkin company gets a frantic call from some housewife ... saying to come out quick, she's got bugs. Nine times out of ten she says not to park that truck with "Exterminator" written all over it in front of her house, either. So what do the boys do? They either park up an alley, or leave the truck sitting in front of the house next door!"
And then there's the story about Clarence Boner, who repairs watches and the ... you know what, get the book and find your own stories to savor.
Where to buy a copy
Indiana University Press, 2016,
$28 hardcover, $27.99 ebook.
In bookstores or at iupress.indiana.edu