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Michael MartoneMichael Martone

Hoosier Connection: Michael Martone was born in 1955 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He has written several essays and short stories regarding his upbringing in Indiana, commenting on the constructed landscape and urbanization of the state.

Works Discussed: The Flatness and Other Landscapes, The Blue Guide to Indiana

Michael Martone was born August 22, 1955, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He attended school there until he went to Butler University from 1973-1976. He transferred to Indiana University in 1977 where he received his A.B. degree. He then enrolled in writing seminars at Johns Hopkins University, earning his M.A. in 1979. Martone has taught literature and creative writing at several different universities, including Iowa State, Harvard, Syracuse, and the University of Alabama, where he currently teaches.

The Flatness and Other Landscapes is a collection of essays in which Martone comments, often ironically, on many aspects of Indiana, including the misconception that Indiana’s land is completely flat. On the contrary, he points out that those living in Indiana are able to detect the minor rises and falls in the landscape. Hoosiers, he writes, are aware of the types of terrain contained in Indiana that are not evident to others:

There are places in the Midwest that are not like this – the limestone hills, the loess bluffs, the forest lakes and the sand dunes, the rills and knobs and kittles. But the people who know the place only by driving through it know the flatness. (1)

Martone reminders readers that parts of Indiana were once wetlands, as evident by the yearly flooding in Fort Wayne:

This region was once a swamp, and a wetland might serve as an appropriate metaphor for what it still is. Things percolate constantly through this place. The region is spongy with its own mobility, but resilient in its steeping. It seems to float and stay put. (115)

Later, Martone comments on the destruction of the natural wetland habitat by those trying to tame the land: “These towns reflect the desire to create a rational, classical civilization in the wilderness. O brave new world!” (115-116). Martone ironically references Aldous Huxley's novel, Brave New World, in which an artificial utopia is created. While this world looks perfect on the outside, to some of its citizens it is meaningless, empty, and destructive. Martone's allusion suggests that those who destroyed the wilderness to create organization and order actually created only a facade of these desired qualities.

While The Flatness and Other Landscapes takes a somewhat serious look at Indiana landscapes, Martone’s The Blue Guide to Indiana provides a satirical look at the state's urban environments. He combines fact with fiction to create a completely different Indiana that somehow still seems familiar to native Hoosiers. Martone comments sarcastically on the urban sprawl that is rampant in Indiana:

Over the last several years, an Indianapolis drug company has been quietly purchasing a wide swath of swamp land and marginally profitable farms near the town of Martinsville. Recently, this bucolic setting has been transformed by a prodigious collection of construction equipment—earth movers and cranes, dump trucks and bulldozers—as the pharmaceutical giant breaks ground for an unprecedented new project opening in the spring of the year 2003: Eli Lilly Land. (71)

In the chapter entitled “Scenic Waste Disposal and Storage Sites,” Martone talks of the “field of light bulbs,” and the “mothball fleet of garbage trucks”:

From the world’s tallest smokestack the exhaust mingles with the prevailing westerly wind. Lit by the retreating light, the eastward spreading plume, which extends for miles, is phosphorescent in the gloaming and can, when conditions are right, create its own weather.... (82)

Martone describes a scene that seems almost pleasant. That is, of course, until one realizes that the situation is created by pollution rising into the air via a smokestack.

Martone uses evocative language, sarcasm, and wit throughout his works to convey his feelings about Indiana. He has strong views regarding the state of the environment in Indiana today, and he makes these views apparent in his writing.



Maliszewski, Paul. "Michael Martone." Dictionary of Literary Biography: American Short-Story Writers since World War II. 2000.

Martone, Michael. The Blue Guide to Indiana. Normal, IL: Fiction Collective Two, 2001.

---. The Flatness and Other Landscapes. Athens, GA: Georgia UP, 2000.

"Michael Martone." Contemporary Authors: New Revision Series. 2001.


Publicity photo courtesy of Michael Martone.


The Flatness

Michael Martone (Web del Sol)