Michael Martone was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and grew up there. As Fort Wayne was the site of, at least, nine forts (three each of French, British, and American fortifications, not to mention fortified villages of the Shawnee and Miami tribes), there was fostered in Martone a keen attraction to walls, fences, barriers of all kinds so much so that he was marked (as he matured) with what can only be thought of as a fetish for such structures which now (years later) expresses itself in his vast collection of examples he displays at his West End house in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. There, the visitor might find field stone walls (dry and mortared, finished and rough), vertical wood-picket fences with various finials and knurls, bamboo stave, horizontal clapboard running fence (reproduced in crosshatching or herring bone patterns), chain-link cyclone mesh, chicken wire, wrought-iron worked, brick, concrete block, red cedar plank snow-fencing, a four yard section of the right field fence bought at auction during the demolition of Yankee Stadium, corrugated galvanized steel, split-rail, adobe, dry-wall, wattle and beam, electrified, a slab from the Berlin wall with graffiti spelling out “wall” in German, and several versions of “invisible” pet fencing. Martone has a real fondness for star fortification (also known as trace italienne) and has in his backyard reconstructed the walled city of Neuhasel in Lower Hungry with its ravelins and redoubts, bonnettes and lunettes and tenailles and tenaillons and counterguards and crownworks hornworks and curvettes and fausse brayes and scarps and cordons and banquettes and counterscarps and the long grassed glacis suitable for picnics. He also has the largest collection of barbed wire in west central Alabama, including an example of contemporary razor and concertina wire. Martone has also written the authorized biography of Joseph F. Glidden (of DeKalb, Illinois), widely regarded as the man who perfected Lucien B. Smith’s original design of the famous agricultural fencing.
Q (Meg Pokrass): What story or book of your own do you feel closest to?
I like “The Sex Life of the Fantastic Four.” I am not sure I can ever publish it, so I read it publicly a lot and like to go through it that way. Someone else? William Gass’s “In the Heart of the Heart of the Country” no contest.
Do you have a mentor?
Yes, several. One–John Barth.
How do you stay creative? What are your tricks to get “unstuck?”
Another mentor–William Stafford. He says: Stuck? Lower your standards.
What are your favorite websites?
What are you working on now?
I am finishing a book of mini-collages called Four For a Quarter, a book of science fiction called Amish in Space, a collaborative project called Winesberg, Indiana, and a book of interviews (I hope this one will be part of) called You Can Say That Again.
Which songs do you currently love?
“Assassins,” Stephen Sondheim
Leonard Cohen in concert
Seferis’s song “Denial”
“California” by Joni Mitchell
What was your favorite elementary school teacher like?
His name was John Flora, 6th grade, Price Elementary. He was like Dick Van Dyke of the Dick Van Dyke Show, not of Mary Poppins or Bye Bye Birdie.
What are your five favorite works of art?
The Photos of O. Winston Link
Andy Warhol (I mean Andy Warhol not his paintings or prints)
The Boxes of Joseph Cornell
The Quilts of Gees Bend
The design of Loewy, Dreyfuss, Eames, Wright
What are your favorite buildings?
The Quonset Hut
The Four-Square House
The work of The Rural Studio
The four houses designed by Michael Graves in Fort Wayne, Indiana
Which book do you wish you’d written?
Amateurs by Donald Barthelme
What do you love about where you live?
The Emergency Barber Shop
The Moon Winx Lodge
Do you have a pet?
I have always wanted a draft horse-Percheron, Belgium, Shire, or Clydesdale — in that order.
Why are people often afraid of trying?
A failure of the imagination?
If you had a prop that you carried with you every day, what would it be?
A hat–Borsalino Fedora, an Italian boater, a bowler, or a campaign hat.
Kumboloi (Greek worry beads).
A folding chair of some kind.
A Mercury dime.
The Fictionaut Five is our ongoing series of interviews with Fictionaut authors. Every Wednesday, Meg Pokrass asks a writer five (or more) questions. Meg is an editor at Smokelong Quarterly, and her stories and poems have been published widely. She blogs at http://megpokrass.com.