Unconventions: Attempting the Art of Craft and the Craft of Art

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University of Georgia Press, Feb 25, 2010 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 208 pages
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Unconventions is a quirky and provocative miscellany that reveals Michael Martone’s protean interests as a writer and a writing teacher. Martone has, shall we say, a problem with authority. His chief pleasure in knowing the rules of his vocation comes from trying out new ways to bend, blend, or otherwise defy them. The pieces gathered in Unconventions are drawn from a long career spent loosening the creative strictures on writing. Including articles, public addresses, essays, interviews, and even a eulogy, these writings vary greatly in form but are unified in addressing the many technical and artistic issues that face all writers, particularly those interested in experimental and nontraditional modes and forms.

Martone’s approach has always been to synthesize, to understand and use any technique, formula, or style available. “I find myself, then,” he writes, “self-identifying as a formalist, both and neither an experimenter and/or a traditionalist.” In “I Love a Parade: An Afterword,” Martone writes about not fitting in--and loving it--as he recalls the time he marched alone in a local Labor Day parade, as a one-person delegation from the National Writers Union. Elsewhere, in writings formally, stylistically, purposely at odds with themselves, Martone’s expansive curiosity is on full display. We learn about camouflage techniques, how a baby acquires language, how to “read” a WPA-era post office mural, and why Martone sold his stock in the New Yorker and reinvested his money in the company that makes Etch A Sketch®.

Unconventions, then, is Martone’s “Frankensteinian monster,” a kind of unruly, hybrid spawn of the mainstream writing enterprise. “Writing seems to me an intrinsic pleasure, an end in itself first,” says Martone. “The question for me is not whether my writing, or any piece of writing, is good or bad but what the writing is and what it is doing and how finally it is used or can be used by others.”


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An Afterword
Attempting the Art of Craft and the Craft of Art
Whose Story Is It? Framing the Frame or Writing Bad on Purpose Purposely
Pygmies Dressed as Pygmies
The Tyranny of Praise
A Charm Bracelet of HalfBaked Delicacies or Xenophons Anabasis and the Collapse of the AvantGarde into Waves of Ecstasy
My Situation
Selling Stories Short
Make Nothing Happen
The Moon over Wapakoneta
Domestic Detail and Describing Rituals of the Ordinary
The History of Corn
Ruining a Story
Camouflage Realism and Believing Our Eyes
The Collected Work of James B Hall
An Epistolary Interview

Space Dome
Four Factual Anecdotes on Fiction
Four Brief Essays on Fictions
An Introduction to Introduction Four Found Introductions
In Memory of Richard Cassell
A Foreword

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About the author (2010)

Michael Martone’s story “The Death of Derek Jeter” recently appeared in Esquire. His short fiction, essays, and articles are widely published. Martone’s books include The Flatness and Other Landscapes and Unconventions, both published by Georgia. He teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Alabama.

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