Racing in Place

Collages, Fragments, Postcards, Ruins

Title Details

Pages: 184

Trim size: 139.700mm x 215.900mm

Formats

Paperback

Pub Date: 01/25/2008

ISBN: 9-780-8203-3039-6

List Price: $19.95

Racing in Place

Collages, Fragments, Postcards, Ruins

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Is it truth or fiction? Memoir or essay? Narrative or associative? To a writer like Michael Martone, questions like these are high praise. Martone's studied disregard of form and his unruffled embrace of the prospect that nothing-no story, no life-is ever quite finished have yielded some of today's most splendidly unconventional writing. Add to that an utter weakness for pop Americana and what Louise Erdrich has called a "deep affection for the ordinary," and you have one of the few writers who could pull off something like Racing in Place. Up the steps of the Washington Monument, down the home stretch at the Indy Speedway, and across the parking lot of the Moon Winx Lodge in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Martone chases, and is chased by, memories-and memories of memories. He writes about his grandfather's job as a meter reader, those seventies-era hotels with atrium lobbies and open glass elevators, and the legendary temper of basketball coach Bob Knight.

Martone, as Peter Turchi has said, looks "under stones the rest of us leave unturned." So, what is he really up to when he dwells on the make of Malcolm X's eyeglasses or the runner-up names for Snow White's seven dwarfs? In "My Mother Invents a Tradition," Martone tells how his mom, as the dean of girls at a brand-new high school in Fort Wayne, Indiana, "constructed a nostalgic past out of nothing." Sitting at their dining room table, she came up with everything from the school colors (orange and brown) to the yearbook title (Bear Tracks). Look, and then look again, Martone is saying. "You never know. I never know."

Martone's gentle, thoughtful, and wry tone informs these pitch-perfect segmented essays on growing up and moving on, on the mythic Midwest, the subtropical South, and the gloomy sunless Northeast. His concerns in this collection are about the act of creative 'transformation' whether the creative act is personal or aimed at an audience. The ordinary always transforms into the extraordinary in these wonderful, complex, and circling essays.

—Robin Hemley, author of Turning Life into Fiction

Martone's essays are dazzling high wire acts in the 'theater of betweenness'-enacting and exploring elusive states of being and becoming. Watch Martone cast his father as a green, velour, female millipede mascot! See Coach Bob Knight perform as a dazzleflauge trickster! Observe the word 'gawk' turned into an epistemological adventure up an elevator shaft and beyond! Postcards, racing, eye charts, the Midwest and much more are read as ciphers, mysteries, forms to turn this way and that in the light of both reason and play. While Martone tunes his ever-alert ear to the 'logo' in logos, he also addresses 'the texture of absence, the heft of loss, the substantial mass of all that.' In this compelling simultaneity, he achieves-in essay after essay-a deeply humane register.

—Lia Purpura, author of On Looking

The thing that's so frustrating about Michael Martone is that his wonderful mercurial tendencies don't let those of us in nonfiction completely call him our own.

—John D’Agata, author of Halls of Fame

Racing in Place is a fine collection of essays, a worthy addition to the genre that Montaigne set in motion.

—Steven Harvey, Fourth Genre

Runner-up

Best Books of Indiana, Indiana Center for the Book

About the Author/Editor

MICHAEL MARTONE is a professor of English at the University of Alabama. He is the author of several books, including The Flatness and Other Landscapes, Unconventions: Attempting the Art of Craft and the Craft of Art, and Racing in Place (all Georgia). His stories and essays have appeared in Harper's, Esquire, Story, Antaeus, North American Review, Benzene, Epoch, Denver Quarterly, Iowa Review, Third Coast, Shenandoah, BOMB, and other magazines.