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 Michael Martone


Website: Michael Martone on Wikipedia

Michael 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 Alabama.

Short Story Collections

Michael Martone 
FC2, 2005

Reviewed by Sarah Salway

Double Wide: Collected Fictions of Michael Martone
Quarry Books, 2007

Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler's List: Indiana Stories
Indiana University Press, 1990

Safety Patrol
The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988

Alive and Dead in Indiana
Alfred A. Knopf, 1984

 Interview with Michael Martone

The Short Review: 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 contributor’s notes.

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.

TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?

MM:   “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.

TSR: Do you have a "reader" in mind when you write stories?

MM:  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?

MM: 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?

MMAnder Monson, Robin Black, Lydia Millet.