Fiction Collective Two is an author-run, not-for-profit publisher of artistically adventurous, non-traditional fiction.

Michael Martone


Michael Martone
by Michael Martone

Paperback
2005
Price: $15.95

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Michael Martone, by Michael Martone, continues the author's giddy exploration of the parts of books nobody ever reads. Michael Martone is its own appendix, comprising fifty "contributors notes," each of which identifies in exorbitant biographical detail the author of the other forty-nine. Full of fanciful anecdotes and preposterous reminiscences, Martone's self-inventions include the multiple deaths of himself and all his family members, his Kafkaesque rebirth as a giant insect, and his stints as circus performer, assembly-line worker, photographer, and movie extra.


Expect no autobiographical consistency here. A note revealing Martone's mother as the ghost-writer of all his books precedes the note beginning, "Michael Martone, an orphan...." We learn of Martone's university career and sketchy formal education, his misguided caretaking of his teacher John Barth's lawn, and his impersonation of a poor African republic in political science class, where Martone's population is allowed to starve as his more fortunate fellow republics fight over development and natural resource trading-cards.


The author of Michael Martone, whose other names include Missy, Dolly, Peanut, Bug, Gigi-tone, Tony's boy, Patty's boy, Junior's, Mickey, Monk, Mr. Martone, and "the contributor named in this note," proves as Protean as fiction itself, continuously transforming the past with every new attribution but never identifying himself by name. It is this missing personage who, from first note to last, constitutes the unformed subject of Michael Martone.


The Litblog Co-op's Summer 2006 READ THIS! Choice


"He works his mischief well, facetiously and in dead earnest." —IndyStar.com


"This has to be one of 2005's best, most interesting and hilarious collections of short stories, not only because of its bizarre, decontructionist format, but--for true lovers of literary fiction--its unique narrative as well." —Bookreporter.com


"It's very different, and it's clever, and it has a zesty swing to it that will make it a welcome acquisition." —The Compulsive Reader

"Michael Martone's Michael Martone squares the facts about his life with the stories about his life. I found I couldn't put the book down, and I never wanted it to end." —Michael Martone


"You might expect a whole collection of contributor's notes (well, okay, forty-two "Contributor's Notes," one "Vita," one "Acknowledgement," and one "About the Author") to be a great experiment in autobiography, one that allows a writer forty-five different points of entry into his own life story--forty-five ways of looking at this particular blackbird. The voyeur in me was looking forward to all that self-revelation, but my hopes were quickly recalibrated as I read the opening "Contributor's Note," which describes Matone's lifelong "collaboration" with his mother who, according to this note, not only wrote his school papers and graduate thesis, but continues to write his fiction, sending it to Martone via microcassette recordings. Hmm. Presumably there's a core of psychological truth there--what a lovely acknowledgement of the extent of a parent's influence on one's art--but clearly not a literal one. Several notes later, we're told that Martone's mother died shortly after his birth, of complications resulting from a difficult pregnancy. What we have here, then, are short fictions, perhaps occasionally autobiographical, about a series of characters named Michael Martone. I do believe that Martone (the author) was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, as asserted by all of the notes except one, which claims he was born in Story County-ha!-Iowa. I would love to believe that Martone (the author) once donned a millipede suit and served as a mascot for Fort Wayne's millennium festivities, as we're told in the note that begins on page 161, but it doesn't matter that I can't; his riff on Kafka made my day.

Why write an entire collection this way? Like a thought experiment in a philosophy class, this book describes forty-five alternate worlds, each closely resembling our own, inhabited by forty-five alternate Michael Martones. The final "Contributor's Note" in the volume says Martone often finds the contributors' notes to be the most interesting part of a magazine: "In a way it is like a party, Martone thinks, and when he revieves his contributor's copy with his contribution and his contributor's note in its pages, Martone most often proceeds directly to the contributors' notes section to see who is attending this affair." Michael Martone,then, is the party Martone has thrown for all his possible selves. And what self-respecting voyeur would miss that?"
—Danielle LaVaque-Manty (NewPages Book Reviews)


Excerpt

Michael Martone was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and he was educated in the public schools there. He attended Indiana University in Bloomington where, as a freshman, he took part in the famous Kinsey Report by completing a survey of his sexual history during orientation. Alfred Kinsey, a biology professor at the university, had begun his famous work on human sexual response when he was teaching, after the war, the "marriage" course, an early attempt in the health curriculum to provide information in what was called then sexual hygiene. One day, a co-ed, who was to be married that summer, approached Kinsey after a lecture to ask what she could expect from her husband, and Kinsey, always the scientist, couldn't answer her since he didn't have, he realized, any hard scientific evidence. "I'll get back to you," he told her, and began his decades long project collecting oral interviews, written personal narratives, taped anecdotal commentary, and computer scanned surveys from a vast range of informants in order to build a workable database of sexual behavior.

There, years later, in a crowded lecture room in Ballantine Hall, Michael Martone participated in the very same ongoing effort of data gathering, carefully blackening with the provided No.2 pencil the appropriate bubble corresponding to the numbered response most accurately representing such desired information as his masturbatory habits and history, his sexual preference, his preferred positions (there were illustrations), and the time, to the nearest minute, of his recovery after "performing vigorous coitus." The room fell silent as the freshman class bent to this initial collegian task required of them, the quiet broken only by the scratching of pencil lead on the rigid manila IBM cards and the counterpunctual response of the rubbing of rubber erasers.

Afterward, Martone remembers racing from the building into a bright fall day, the trees of Dunn Meadow just taking on the color of the season. That night, he called his mother, who had also been a student at Indiana University to ask her if she, too, had been recruited to contribute to Professor Kinsey's report, indicating to her, as best he could, the extent and duration of statistical instrument he had just endured. "No," his mother responded, "they didn't have that when I was there. I did take this facts-of-life course the spring before I married Daddy." She went on to say that she didn't learn much, that the class had been dry and very statistical in nature. "I even asked the professor about it." It hadn't mattered, she concluded, since shortly after that meeting with the professor who had told her he would get back to her about her questions, she and her soon-to-be husband figured out how to go about the very thing that had been so mysterious.

Late one night, in a classroom where, in his senior year at Indiana University, Martone would take a class on Chaucer, his parents, ignorant of contraception in spite of the courses they took, managed to conceive their son. Though when asked, years later, by her son for further details, his mother simply said she couldn't recall much more about that night but that she could make something up if that would help.