Aug 04, 2008, 10:47AM

Talking To Michael Martone

Michael Martone has written books about Michael Martone's contributor notes and fake places to visit in Indiana. Here he sits down to talk about the deconstruction of authorship, blog writing, and why he only cares about the microscopic differences between fiction and non-fiction.


More and more I think of myself as a writer. Or as a maker of written things. Like this thing now. This interview. I think that finally we all have to sort and arrange and categorize and install what we come across in the world in order to order it. Order it to make sense of it. But I am less and less involved in that now. I will write something and allow others to make do, make due, make dew with it. That is one danger, I think, of the writer or artist in the university that is really nothing more than a massive sorting calculator of knowledge. My writing students enter a workshop to write, but their main function over the 16-week semester is to function as critics for other writers’ writing. They may produce two or three stories over that time and have the stories talked about for maybe one or two hours in all that time. More often than not they are operating as sorters, assigning quality standards, assaying value and worth, labeling genre. It is work that has to be done but it is a dangerous habit to get into if you are wanting to be a writer. To distinguish. To sort. To even make sense of what one is doing before one is done doing it. So, I am hedging your question. I want to think of what I do as writing and let the speciation to others. Many artists draw, use watercolor, paint in oils, sculpt, construct, assemble, paste. They mix their media but it is all seen as art, and issues of its fact or fiction seem beside the point to me. Well at least beside the point when the thing is in the making. I am in the fabrication business and there are different gradients on that scale of fiction and non-, I suppose, but none I worry about as I am doing them. I have a fiction in the voice of Dan Quayle who is writing an essay; a book about Michael Martone written by Michael Martone in the voice and form of his, Michael Martone’s, biographer; I have an essay in the voice of Michael Martone on the fictional creation of a character named Bobby Knight. To me the differences are in the details at a microscopic scale, not at the much larger one of genre.

Creative writing had always bestowed the making of meaning exclusively into the hands of the author. The then-current ideas questioned this and suggested that the reader too is involved in the making of meaning. To me this seemed incredibly liberating. A writer no longer needs to worry about such control. Instead, it seemed to me, the writer’s job became more that of an arranger of interesting environments that could be made available to the now very active reader. Or another way of thinking of it is that all of those categories—writer, reader, editor, critic, publisher—were now destabilized. I could be all of these things at once as the readers too could be all these things at once. You said it above. This was “play” in the sense that everything every time was to be re-invented. Nothing in this art, in this aesthetic is fixed—meaning in place or stable—or can be fixed—meaning to aspire to an ideal form. It seemed to me my job was to do just as you said above, to break open these fixed categories, expose them constantly for the constructions they are, and allow the reader to participate in the making of art, not simply its passive reception. Where is this heading? I think one line to follow is the actually disappearance of the signature. The author of a piece authoring the piece, maybe not truly anonymously, but without the audience of the piece really caring who the author is. In that way, the Internet is already deconstructing the “author” far better. So much of the Internet is “written” (you got to love those quotation marks) but who is its author?


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