Posts Tagged: michael martone

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Review by Maya Goldfarb

I have never, in person, seen skywriting before, but I spend a good deal of time looking at clouds. I’ve always liked clouds. I like that they’re transient, amorphous. They carry whatever meaning I give their shape until that shape changes, or dissipates altogether. It is generally accepted that the human brain struggles to accept indeterminacy; that is, we are constantly faced with the urge to ascribe meaning to something, a meaning that then becomes an understanding. This feels somewhat burdensome to me sometimes, knowing all too well that quality of fleeting impermanence, and I find myself wondering about the purpose of giving meaning to something that is only ever floating away.  

I have now, in pictures, seen a great deal of skywriting; Martone’s book is filled with these photographs and their whimsical backstories. Misspellings, miscommunications, romantic missteps, and many, many plane crashes color the life of Art Smith through a seamless blend of fact and fiction in a literary form that I can’t seem to pin down. Not quite a biography, but not entirely a work of fiction either, Martone’s mythology is a self-defining exploration of purpose. With lighthearted ease, he tells the story of Art Smith’s skywriting career for no apparent reason other than to do just that, and to wonder at what motivated self-expression on such an expansive canvas, looking carefully at “how vulnerable it all seemed from above.”

Martone seems wholly unfamiliar with the feeling of my cloud-shape anxiety, and I think he shoulders the burden of meaning a bit better than I. Art Smith, The Bird Boy of Fort Wayne, fulfills the first step of overcoming indeterminacy by giving shape to the clouds through his skywriting; Michael Martone, author and editor, embraces and exceeds the task of giving meaning through each brief story (I think that he truly enjoys it, too). The actual impermanence of Art Smith’s skywriting has little to do with its meaning, and that meaning doesn’t have to be a burden. Maybe something that spells out “CLOUD” and is described by onlookers as “an artificial cloudlike cloud” is really just a cloud. There is something quite serious, and yet quite ironic, about immortalizing a man who most have never heard of alongside his work which practically disappeared as it was written, that “stuttering and impermanent imaginary geometry…the gauziest of insubstantial clouds.” Perhaps Martone knew that sometimes, when pondering the general impermanence of life, you just need a bit of a laugh. 

BOA Editions, October 13, 2020, $17.00 trade paper (224p), ISBN: 9781950774210.

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Interview with 2017 Blue Light Reader Andrea Lewis

Andrea Lewis’s short story collection What My Last Man Did won the Indiana Review / IU Press 2016 Blue Light Books Prize (IU Press 2017), and will be launching this Saturday at the Blue Light Reading! In this interview, she discusses research, place, music, and how she knew What My Last Man Did was ready to submit. Be sure to read excerpts of Andrea’s prize-winning collection, and order your copy from IU Press today!


Andrea Lewis’s work has appeared in many literary journals, including Prairie Schooner, Cutthroat, Cold Mountain Review, and Catamaran Literary Reader. Three of her stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is a founding member of Richard Hugo House, the place for writers in Seattle. She lives with her husband on Vashon Island, Washington. More of her work is available at

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Announcing the 2016 Blue Light Books Prize Winner!

We are proud to announce that judge Michael Martone has selected Andrea Lewis’s short story collection WHAT MY LAST MAN DID as the winner of the IR/IU Press 2016 Blue Light Books Prize! We received many excellent short story collections and the competition was fierce. Thank you to everyone who submitted their work for consideration and made this year’s Blue Light Books Prize possible. WHAT MY LAST MAN DID will be published by IU Press in Spring 2017.

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Interview with Michael Martone, 2016 Blue Light Books Prize Judge


We are proud to have long-time IR contributor Michael Martone judge the inaugural 2016 IR/IU Press Blue Light Books Prize. While readying your short story collections, read his generous interview where he discusses his favorite short story collections, Saturn’s rings, a story’s pulse, and what he might be looking for in the winning short-story collection.



Photo by Janine Crawley

Michael Martone’s most recent books are Winesburg, Indiana, Four for a Quarter, Not Normal, Illinois: Peculiar Fiction from the Flyover, Racing in Place: Collages, Fragments, Postcards, Ruins, a collection of essays, and Double-wide, his collected early stories.

Martone’s stories and essays have appeared in Harper’s, Esquire, Story, North American Review, Epoch, Denver Quarterly, Iowa Review, Third Coast, Shenandoah, Bomb, and have appeared and been cited in the Pushcart Prize as well as The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Essays anthologies. He has won two Fellowships from the NEA and a grant from the Ingram Merrill Foundation.

Martone is currently a Professor at the University of Alabama where he has been teaching since 1996. He has been a faculty member of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College since 1988. He has taught at Iowa State University, Harvard University, and Syracuse University.


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Summer Break-ing Away

Still from the film Breaking Away

It’s summer in Bloomington! While not *all* IR editorial meetings take place at the quarries (see above), this season comes with a to-do list more rigorous than Dennis Quaid’s late-’70s ab workouts (again, see above). What does that mean for you?

Regular submissions will be CLOSED, starting May 31. Submissions will re-open August 1, 2012. Any electronic or hard-copy submissions received between May 31 and July 31 will be returned unread.

But wait!

Do you have your own “Little 500” — a story of 500 words or fewer — looking for a venue? Submit to our “1/2 K” Prize, judged by Michael Martone! Postmark deadline is June 1, 2012. Submission guidelines can be found here.

Stay tuned to the blog for updates on more goings-on at Indiana Review. Ciao!