The Complete Writings of Art Smith, the Bird Boy of Fort Wayne, Edited by Michael Martone
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About the Author
Michael Martone was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he learned at a very early age, about flight. His mother, a high school English teacher, read to him of the adventures of Daedalus and Icarus from the book Mythology written by Edith Hamilton, who was born in Dresden, Germany, but who also grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Martone remembers being taken by his father to Baer Field, the commercial airport and Air National Guard base, to watch the air traffic there. He was blown backward on the observation deck by the prop-wash of the four-engine, aluminum-skinned Lockheed Constellation with its elegant three-tailed rudder turning away from the gates. At the same time, the jungle-camouflaged Phantom F-4s did touch-and-goes on the long runway, the ignition of their after-burners sounding as if the sky was being torn like blue silk. As a child growing up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Martone heard many stories about Art Smith, "The Bird Boy of Fort Wayne," and the adventures of this early aviation pioneer. In the air above the city, Martone, as a boy, imagined, "The Bird Boy of Fort Wayne" accomplishing, for the first time, the nearly impossible outside loop and then a barrel-roll back into a loop-to-loop in his fragile cotton canvas and baling wire flying machine he built in his own backyard in Fort Wayne, Indiana, whose sky above was the first sky, anywhere, to be written on, written on by Art Smith, "The Bird Boy of Fort Wayne," the letters hanging there long enough to be read but then smeared, erased by the high altitude wind, turning into a dissipating front of fogged memories, cloudy recollection.
Michael Martone's recent books are The Moon Over Wapakoneta; Brooding; 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. Michael Martone, is a memoir in contributor's notes. Unconventions: Writing on Writing and Rules of Thumb, edited with Susan Neville, are craft books. He is also the author of The Blue Guide to Indiana, published by FC2. The University of Georgia Press published his book of essays, The Flatness and Other Landscapes, winner of the AWP Award for Nonfiction, in 2000. With Robin Hemley, he edited Extreme Fiction. With Lex Williford, he edited The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction and The Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction. Martone is the author of five other books of short fiction including Seeing Eye; Pensées: The Thoughts of Dan Quayle; Fort Wayne Is Seventh on Hitler's List; Safety Patrol; and Alive and Dead in Indiana. He has edited two collections of essays about the Midwest: A Place of Sense: Essays in Search of the Midwest and Townships: Pieces of the Midwest. His stories and essays have appeared in Harper's, Esquire, Story, Antaeus, North American Review, Benzene, Epoch, Denver Quarterly, Iowa Review, Third Coast, Shenandoah, Bomb, Story Quarterly, American Short Fiction and other magazines.
Martone was born and grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He attended Butler University and graduated from Indiana University. He holds an MA from The Writing Seminars of The Johns Hopkins University.
Martone has won two Fellowships from the NEA and a grant from the Ingram Merrill Foundation. His stories have won awards in the Italian Americana fiction contest, the Florida Review Short Story Contest, the Story magazine Short, Short Story Contest, the Margaret Jones Fiction Prize of Black Ice Magazine, and the first World's Best Short, Short Story Contest. His stories and essays have appeared and been cited in the Pushcart Prize, The Best American Stories and The Best American Essays anthologies. In 2013 he received the national Indiana Authors Award, and in 2016, the Mark Twain Award for Distinguished Contribution to Midwestern Literature.
Michael 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.
"Michael Martone's clever, hilarious prose soars in this faux biography of a real person, Art Smith, an early Fort Wayne aviator who invented skywriting. A necessary minimalist, Art spends his life spinning through blue skies leaving words, punctuation marks, even math formulas. Martone charts Art's fictional flights through major historic moments of the twentieth century. We meet Gertrude Stein, Buffalo Bill Cody, Presidents Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson. With his signature wit, Martone pilots meaning from Art's skywriting, making poetry out of writing which disappeared almost as soon as it was written."
--Margaret McMullan, author of Where the Angels Lived
"There is plenty of play in this enchanting and haunted book--the play of language is rich, for example, but there are much deeper layers of play as well, with the literature of an earlier era, with world events of that time, and the implicit knowledge of the world to come, our own. By spending time with the American history of a more innocent time, this wondrous book offers something vital to our present, a key to explain who we are, and the wishful logic fanning our airy aspirations. Despite modernity and the rise of industry, as this exploration makes plain, our long-standing divide is a pastoral dilemma. Our actual belonging place is the earth, and there we know each other. But often we find that the desire of the human spirit, however it is housed, is to soar, Icarus-like, above the firmament, into the nameless air of the air, to see our home from above. It is fitting that the protagonist of this richly imagined book, upon his youthful launch, becomes a 'citizen of the sky.' And a phrase like that follows along at the end of any number of sentences in this book, fleetingly and ephemeral, like a contrail."
--Maurice Manning, author of Railsplitter
"Unlike the subject of this book--skywriting--Martone's words do not swiftly dissipate but instead imprint in our imagination. Are these real, dreamed, haunted, or encoded messages? It hardly matters in this convincing and fanciful lyric. We go into the cloud of words and punctuation in a flight of unlikely maneuvers, in daring associations of land and air, often mediated by birds on the wing, and we read as if augers of old. What is our future? What hath he writ, this Bird Man of Fort Wayne?"
--Heid E. Erdrich, editor of New Poets of Native Nations