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Racing in Place

Collages, Fragments, Postcards, Ruins

Michael Martone

Publication Year: 2008

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.”

Published by: University of Georgia Press

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pp. ix-xii

I thank the editors of the books and magazines where these essays first appeared. “Racing in Place” was written for A Year in Place, edited by W. Scott Olsen...

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In the Middle of Things: An Introduction or an Afterword

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pp. 1-7

This book is a mess. Well, not this book, the one you are reading now, the finished product with its finished pages, its finished cover. A few weeks ago, I responded to the author’s questionnaire, a marketing survey...

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Racing in Place: 33 Hoosier Haiku

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pp. 8-21

The first thing you did was tune in the radios. Everyone had the new transistor radios, most the size of cigarette packs, in pastel hard- shell plastic. Some were upholstered with protective leatherlike vinyl with flaps and snaps and die- cut openings for the gold- embossed tuning dials, a slit for the coin- edged volume wheel, an aperture for the ear jack...

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City Light and Power: Views of My Grandfather Walking

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pp. 22-26

In 1930, my grandfather was working on the railroad, the Pennsylvania Railroad to be exact, or “the Pennsy” as he and the rest of Fort Wayne called the PRR. He was then a management trainee, learning the workings of the company by working various jobs in each of the company’s divisions....

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pp. 27-35

My house at 29 Country Club Hills overlooks the old Country Club of Tuscaloosa. The ninth tee and green, a short par 3 of 183 yards, is screened by a ragged hedge of pines and kudzuvined sycamores. Sitting in my metal motel chair in my driveway, I can hear the golfers yelling “fore” as the sliced ball crashes into the scrub across the street...

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What I Want to Tell: A Sequence of Rooms

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pp. 36-50

“What do you want to tell me?” Doctor X asks me. I am in an office room, an office room very much like my own office room. It has a desk, a desk chair, and some chairs. The overhead lights, a panel in the false drop ceiling, are off. The desk lamp is on as is a torchiere in the corner, its halogen humming in the silence that follows the question...

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Going Up

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pp. 51-62

I am a gawker. A bumpkin, a hayseed from the Midwest, I stand on the wide sidewalks of cities to look up at the tall buildings. The pedestrians stream grudgingly by, parting into channels on either side of my shoal-like stillness. The walls launch from the same concrete on which I am standing...

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Still Life of Sidelines with Bob

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pp. 63-71

Basketball coach Bob Knight of the Texas Tech University Red Raiders is riding the referee. It is the opening seconds of the home game with Oklahoma University, and the ref lucky enough to pull the assignment to patrol the bench-side corridor from Texas Tech’s back court to Oklahoma’s...

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My Father Has Been Turned into a Monstrous Vermin

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pp. 72-89

I was in Fort Wayne for the millennium’s New Year’s celebration. My mother was on the municipal committee that had planned the year’s events that culminated with the fireworks launched from the top of the Summit Bank Building downtown. Freezing, the crowd below watched the display...

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pp. 90-94

I have two picture postcards I picked up in Hannibal, Missouri. One has two boys equipped, as you’d suspect—Tom and Huck. Straw hats, bib overalls rolled at the cuff, bare feet. Backs to us, they are watching a steamboat, of course, cruise by on the Mississippi....

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Country Roads Lined with Running Fences: A Dozen Story Problems about the Place of Place

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pp. 95-102

1. Where to have lunch? One summer, in Centerville, Iowa, I had supper in a restaurant on the largest town square in the world. At one time, chances were good that on most town squares of the Midwest there would be a steak place, or a pizza parlor, soda fountain, or newsstand, run...

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Sympathetic Pregnancies

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pp. 103-113

I found myself in a room with nine pregnant women. All of the women were in the very late stages of their pregnancies—very late. Their deliveries past due, they waited in this converted surgical recovery room for their labors to commence. All of them were massive...

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Seven Dwarf Essays

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pp. 114-123

Growing up, my son always said that when he grew up he wanted to be a seven dwarf. That was how he said it. “I want to be a seven dwarf.” It was funny, of course, because he wanted the most out of that expressed desire...

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Sixteen Postcards from Terra Incognita

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pp. 124-131

The poignancy of postcards stems from that expressed or, at least, implied desire: Wish you were here! Penned when “here” is so not “there” yet addressed to a “you” important enough to make the “you” who writes the postcard forgetful...

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Views of My Glasses

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pp. 132-143

Black plastic frames top the top halves of the lenses that are outlined below with silver wire rims. Silver rivets at each top corner of the frame and at the points where the temples are attached. The delicate clear plastic pads rest on each side of the nose. The pads are connected to filaments...

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Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Moon Winx

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pp. 144-153

It is the Moon Winx Lodge. That x does a lot of work. There is the x that visually represents a cartoon wink. The eyes are x’ed out in death or drunkenness, the unconscious x that mimics the XXX labeling the jug of moonshine...

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On Being

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pp. 154-168

“So I have sailed the seas and come . . . to B. . . . a small town fastened to a field in Indiana.” So begins “In the Heart of the Heart of the Country,” a story by William H. Gass. He began writing it about fifty years ago, while he was living in the town of Brookston, Indiana...

E-ISBN-13: 9780820342825
E-ISBN-10: 0820342823
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820330396
Print-ISBN-10: 0820330396

Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 2008