Tuesday, April 14, 2009

#160 Particularly Michael Martone

Michael Martone was born in 1955 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, which is one of the things that made Michael Martone particularly Michael Martone. Michael Martone’s childhood was like many childhoods at the end of the baby boom—happy, rich, optimistic. His mother was a high school English teacher and Michael Martone loved reading mythology—in part because the translator (Edith Hamilton) was from his hometown, in part because she made the mythology new. Growing up, Michael Martone loved to make model airplanes (each with its own nose mascot or variation of camo paint) and 54mm soldiers (the uniformity of uniforms, the slight variation in the details of the dress and how those details can be read)—theme and variation. In junior high school, Michael Martone wore black-and-white saddle shoes (for their black-and-white-ness). In high school, Michael Martone was mostly speech and debate, reading and writing, government and politics; he also wore black-and-white saddle shoes (because they were the first gym shoe). At Butler University and then at Indiana University, Michael Martone continued to wear black-and-white saddle shoes (for their iconic nature). Michael Martone graduated with a degree in English, and, for a while, worked in a bookstore. In graduate school at Johns Hopkins University, Michael met the poet Theresa Pappas. The first thing he noticed about her was the brightly colored socks she wore, and, after that, they got married. For all these years, Michael has admired her strength and her intensity, her devotion and her intelligence. The strangest thing Michael Martone ever did was become a father—two sons, Sam and Nick—but he loves the rewiring that takes place when one has children. For the past 30 years, Michael Martone has taught creative writing—at four different universities (now at the University of Alabama). At one university, at a party, a drunk colleague threw a drink at a woman student. The fallout from that gesture changed Michael Martone’s life in profound ways. It made him rethink and reimagine what it means to be a teacher, a writer, a man; his notions of what art is, what fiction is, what power is; what a family is and whether that should that be a model for a program, a department, or any job. Over the past 25 years, Michael Martone has published 12 books of fiction and nonfiction—including The Flatness and Other Landscapes (2000), Michael Martone (2005), Unconventions (2005), Double-Wide (collected fiction; 2007), and, most recently, Racing in Place (2008). Right now, Michael Martone is on a semester leave and hopes to finish up 3 or 4 books he’s been working on. He also wants to keep running, to start a compost heap, and to redesign his garden to include more vegetables. He wants to work harder to care and to not care. He wants to learn how to sit still. He stays in touch the best he can.

[Note #1: This postcard life story is part of a series of postcard life stories that appear in Keyhole #6 (guest edited by William Walsh), where all the contributor bios will be postcard life stories--the idea being to make every possible aspect of the magazine literature.]

6 comments:

The Man Who Couldn't Blog said...

How wonderfully appropriate that a man who sends out so many postcards should have his life story on a postcard.

Michael Kimball said...

I did feel some pressure writing this one, but I was really happy with how it turned out.

Leslie F. Miller said...

His energy astounds me.

ken baumann said...

I really like this one.

Josh Maday said...

Great work, Michael. Both of you.

Michael Kimball said...

Yes, Leslie, I love the energy, a good model. Thanks, Ken. Thanks, Josh (from both of us).