Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lee Martin

Lee Martin is the author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Bright Forever; a novel, Quakertown; a story collection, The Least You Need to Know; and two memoirs, From Our House and Turning Bones. He has won a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction, a Lawrence Foundation Award, and the Glenna Luschei Prize. He lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he directs the creative writing program at The Ohio State University.

His new novel is Break the Skin.

Earlier this month I asked Martin what he was reading. His reply:
I recently read Stewart O’Nan’s novel, Emily, Alone, because I’m a big fan of Stewart’s work, and I wanted to have a look at his latest. I knew going in that this was a story about aging, as seen through the consciousness of its main character, eighty-year-old Emily Maxwell. Before I even opened the book, I felt heartened by the fact that Stewart had bravely taken on subject matter that was rife with challenges. How does one successfully tell the story of a woman who is toward the end of her life? How does one tell that story without falling into cliché and sentimentality? Well, if you’re a novelist as gifted as Stewart so clearly is, you pull it all off by being a close observer of the particulars of your character’s world. In that way, Emily’s story becomes only hers, notable for all its idiosyncrasies, and at the same time the story of all of us. Stewart, in his vibrant, humorous, and poignant portrait of Emily, reminds us that the lived life, no matter of how many advanced years, is a life made up of specific choices, circumstances, consequences, joys, hopes, fears, regrets, and all the other things that make us human. Reading this book also reminded me of how the small details of a life always add up to something significant in the hands of an expert novelist. In Emily, Alone, that “something” is the resonance of the human spirit insisting on maintaining hope even toward the end of a life when so much is so precious because time is so short. To my way of thinking, there aren’t enough novels these days that feature older characters—they’re often forgotten in literature as they are in real life—and I’m so very glad that Stewart took on Emily Maxwell and treated her with so much love, candor, and respect. She’s a character who will stay with me a very long time, the way family members now gone stay in my heart.
Visit Lee Martin's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Break the Skin.

My Book, The Movie: Break the Skin.

--Marshal Zeringue