Books by Michael Martone

WINESBURG, INDIANA by Michael Martone
Released: Aug. 3, 2015

"The premise of co-opting a classic (Winesburg, Ohio) is suspect from the beginning, and in the end, this anthology is a sophomoric attempt at humor and social commentary."
An anthology of short fiction by multiple authors creates a town through its characters. Read full book review >
SEEING EYE by Michael Martone
Released: Sept. 1, 1995

A fourth collection from the author of Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler's List (1990, not reviewed, etc.): 35 short-shorts, focusing mainly on the lasting images of Indiana, that are mostly excellent examples of highly skilled miniature portraiture. In the first of three sections, ``The War That Never Ends,'' Martone uses his acute sense of detail to capture vanishing ways of rural life in Hoosier country. ``What stays when even the earth gets up and moves away?'' the narrator of ``Elkhart, There, at the End of the World'' asks as he watches trailers carting modular homes across the state. In the next section, ``PensÇes, The Thoughts of Dan Quayle,'' the author inhabits the mind of his fellow Hoosier, the former vice president, as he dedicates factories, picks out embarrassing souvenirs in Chile, and scans late-night talk shows for jokes about himself. Without going for the obvious, Martone imagines a sober and probable inner life for one of America's most inscrutable politicians: ``I am the official mourner. The shadow of death cast a few polite paces behind the aging President.'' In the thirdand least satisfyingsection, ``Seeing Eye,'' stories draw on newspaper headlines and focus on Indiana odditiesa former Olympic swimmer, for instance, who's now a children's dentist (``Highlights''), a mail-carrier in a town whose industry is raising seeing-eye dogs (``Seeing Eye''), a woman who used to paint clock-faces with radium-soaked paint (``It's Time''). But even these one-note shorts have moments of clarity and insight. And hidden among them is a gem: ``Outside Peru'' is an unsentimental yet moving portrait of a young farmer coming to grips with the fact that he will always work the same land he grew up on. Overall: impressive, subtle portraits of perceptive Middle Americans. Read full book review >
TOWNSHIPS by Michael Martone
Released: Feb. 28, 1992

Essays on the Midwest, each grappling well with the idea of townships. A township is a six-mile square—36 sections of 640 acres each: The Midwest was surveyed in this fashion in the early 19th century. When roads were made, they followed the grid-lines: north- south, east-west; it gave a Jeffersonian order to the wilderness, and a character to midwesterners: practical, upright, clean. Maybe that's true, or partly true. You couldn't tell from some of these writers who, not long out of various writing programs, look across cornfields and see words. Others, like Carol Bly, pass lightly over the township concept to speak of the environmental problems facing Minnesota, Duluth particularly. Stuart Dybek, from a mixed neighborhood in Chicago, writes entertainingly about what shaped him as a writer, in the process illustrating how meaningless the township concept is for a large city. Ray A. Young Bear, a poet from the Mesquakie Reservation in central Iowa, writes lyrically of his grandfather's death and of the holiness of the land, to which subjects the metaphor of townships seems irrelevant or even at odds. On the other hand, Michael Wilkerson, writing from a far-left perspective, tells us exactly who owns townships: railroads and utility companies, with huge easements and endless payments unto them. Ellen Hunnicutt gives us a view of country becoming town, in an evocation of a childhood on the wrong side of the Bloomington, Indiana, tracks. Joseph Geha muses good-humoredly on the fortunes of a Lebanese-American (himself) in Iowa farm country. Paul Gruchow, James B. Hall, C.J. Hribal, and Howard Kohn are each skilled in evoking a rural Midwest that, if it has not exactly died, has changed dramatically. The three portray the disappearance of family farms, while Kohn relates, in wry detail, how a golf course came to exist in a rural township, and of one man's—his father's—resistance and eventual capitulation. Flawlessly intelligent essays, variously nostalgic, angry, and prophetic. Read full book review >