Review

Michael Martone

by Michael Martone



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

Presented as 190 pages of "contributor's notes," one "vita," one
"about the author" and an "acknowledgement," MICHAEL MARTONE tells
of the many unrelated lives of various Michael Martones, most born
in Fort Wayne, Indiana, most with some connection to literature,
and most with adoration, praise and recognition of Michael
Martones' mothers. Close readers will note that the number of
"contributor's notes" in the table of contents do not match the
actual content of the book, and there is even "a contributor's
note" hidden among the stories in the collection. Collection?
Novel? Memoir? Biography? Autobiography? Autobiographies?
Metafiction? New realism? It is hard to tell, really, what this
book is, though radical, alternative press FC2 assures the reader
that the book --- and it is a book --- is indeed fiction. The
author writes that many of the "contributor's notes" have been
previously published; a list of journals is provided.

So who is the real Michael Martone? After enjoying the first few
"contributor's notes," the reader soon learns an important lesson,
one that makes the book all the more compelling, and one that may
just be the key to solving the mystery of life and the problem of
identity: fact and fiction cannot be separated. From the notes,
both funny and touching, it is learned that the real and fictional
Martones were first published in Life magazine, worked for
the Gambino family, had mothers who died young and lived long,
healthy lives, met other people named Michael Martone (though
Martone's father assured Michael that he was the only Michael
Martone), had a connection to the Kinsey Report, were mistaken for
both John Gotti, Fred Flintstone and Paul McCartney, worked at
International Harvester, taught at Harvard, married and divorced
many times, suffered numerous maimings, suffered a Catholic
education, worked the night shift at a hotel where Vernon Jordan
was shot, purposely injected untruths in journals that have
published his stories, obsessed over water glasses while organizing
literary readings, had John Barth as a mentor, was photographed by
Jill Krementz, was a childhood TV star, and turned into a
bug.

In re-reading MICHAEL MARTONE, one discovers that the format of the
book permits accidental chapter skipping so the reader may find
other Michael Martones hidden among the ones already
discovered.

While all of the "contributor's notes" are ironic and worthwhile
reading, one standout concerns a university lesson in which each
student is a country and must manage the politics, economy, and
future of that country. Michael Martone is a small third-world
country so gripped by war, pollution and famine that he disappears
(leaving for a drink of water!) and does not return, thus proving
the predicted outcome of the professor's lesson: "No one even
noticed as a whole nation vanished."

After reading twenty or so times the identical opening line of each
chapter --- "Michael Martone was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana..."
--- readers will find that they begin to mentally replace Michael
Martone's name with their own, following the introductions with
their own life details. Brandon M. Stickney was born in Lockport,
New York, where he attended public school before going to college
to become a journalist. Timothy McVeigh was born in Pendleton, New
York, and attended public schools before joining the Army. Stickney
and McVeigh's lives intersected when McVeigh killed 168 people and
Stickney wrote a book about him.

While I, your reviewer, have socialized and exchanged
correspondence with a few of the real people Michael Martone uses
as characters in these "contributor's notes," including Jay
McInerney (his third sudden cameo as a character in a fiction this
year, after Rick Moody's THE DIVINERS and Bret Easton Ellis's LUNAR
PARK), Joyce Carol Oates (her first appearance as a character), and
David Kaczynski (the Unabomber's brother), this reviewer has not
previously read any fiction by Michael Martone. Though, after
reading MICHAEL MARTONE and being gripped by the author's prose, I
will read his other books and hope that, someday, some way, I,
Brandon M. Stickney (the M. stands for Michael), will have the
honor of being mentioned in a future story by Michael Martone. In
fact, since Martone has been known, like Edgar Allan Poe, to review
his own books under assumed names, I feel that we may have already
met.

Reviewed by Brandon M. Stickney on January 7, 2011

Michael Martone
by Michael Martone

  • Publication Date: October 28, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 186 pages
  • Publisher: Fiction Collective 2
  • ISBN-10: 1573661260
  • ISBN-13: 9781573661263