Website: Michael Martone on Wikipedia
Martone is the author of several fiction and nonfiction
collections, including The
Blue Guide to Indiana, Seeing Eye, Pensees: The Thoughts of Dan Quayle,
Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler’s List and The Flatness of Other Landscapes,
a collection of essays about the Midwest which received the 1998 AWP
Award for Creative Nonfiction. He teaches writing at the University of
Quarry Books, 2007
Wide: Collected Fictions of Michael Martone
Indiana University Press, 1990
is Seventh on Hitler's List: Indiana Stories
The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988
Alfred A. Knopf, 1984
Dead in Indiana
with Michael Martone
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Michael Martone: Michael Martone
took two years to write. It started with the “Author’s Note” I wrote
for the previous book, The
Blue Guide to Indiana. Once I started writing
contributor’s notes I couldn’t stop.
TSR: Did you
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
MM: I actually thought
that these would never be collected. Would anyone be interested in
four-dozen contributor’s notes? As I wrote, I thought that, perhaps,
this would be more a memoir than a collection. Memoir by means of
TSR: How did
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
MM: I ended up using
most of the contributor’s notes I had written. The ones I left out were
the ones that were closest to having an actual narrative. That is to
say those contributor’s notes had more story to them and seemed to be
about characters other than Michael Martone. I wanted with these pieces
to be as close to the form of contributor’s notes as possible and have
them meditate on the notion of self, autobiography, and the
construction of authorship. I wanted them to be funny as well. And
deadpan. The order was dictated by theme. I knew I wanted to start with
the note that has Michael Martone’s mother writing Michael Martone’s
stories and end with a contributor’s note on contributor’s notes. The
order often in between then was dictated by juxtaposition and not on
building to any sort of climax or plot. I wanted the lives of this
character to not add up. To start and stop. I wanted, in the book, to
resist the command that narrative have a beginning middle and end, and
I wanted to do that both at the story level and the book level.
does the word "story"
mean to you?
“Story” means to me a narrative, one with beginning middle and end that
can be mapped out with Frietag’s triangle with its ground setting,
vehicle, rising action, climax, and dénouement. I don’t write too many
stories. I think of myself as more a writer of fictions that are short.
More a lyrical writer. A collagist. A writer of prose perhaps. But not
a storywriter or storyteller.
have a "reader" in mind when you write stories?
I had a very specific reader in mind for the fictions that make up Michael Martone.
I published many of these first in literary magazines and asked that
they be published in the Contributors’ Notes section of the magazine.
Most were published in the back of the magazines. My contribution to
the issue then not recorded in the table of contents. So my audience
was readers who read the contributors’ notes.
TSR: Is there
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection,
anything at all?
MM: Did you laugh?
TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
Always amazing. It feels most wonderful knowing that people are reading
the book. It doesn’t matter if they buy it. It is such a lonely
business, writing. I rarely hear at all from readers and less and less
from reviewers even so it is wonderful to get any response. And that
kind of response is much more enjoyable than the tote board of
royalties and the record of books sold.
TSR: What are
you working on now?
MM: I am finishing up a book of fictions called Four for a Quarter.
Each piece is based on a “four”—the four seasons, the four winds, the
four chambers of the heart, the four corners, the four seasons, the
four points of the compass, 4H, 4F, the four questions at Passover, the
Fab Four, plus fours, quadratic equations, the four railroads on the
Monopoly board, the four-in-hand knot, the Fantastic Four, etc.
TSR: What are
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
MM: Ander Monson, Robin Black, Lydia Millet.