Michael Martone was 25 when Lish published this slim volume of seven monologues at Knopf. Yes, we say monologues because that is how these first person texts read, apparently originally conceived as faux contributor notes for jounrals like Indiana Review, Iowa Review, Shannendoah among others. It is the sort of postmodern reflexive thing he is still up to.
Martone channels the dead or those who knew the dead, such as a high school drama teacher who takes credit for teaching a young James Dean everything he knew about acting, or the musings of Alfred Kinsey on life and porn…or John Dillinger…or a little known “fact” that Fort Wayne, Indiana was number seven on Hitler’s list of cities to bomb.
Seems in 2010 a small theater in the Midwest did indeed mount a stage adaptation of these monologues.
Martone did not publish a second book with Knopf and Lish. In an interview at The LitBlog Co-op, Martone notes that the reason the collection is so skinny is that the Knopf lawyers had three stories pulled for “invasion of privacy” of real people (perhaps similar to the problems Robert Coover had with The Public Burning and Nixon and lawyers, a book that was originally purchased by Knopf) and the last story, “Vocation,” was added at the 11th hour. He also notes that the lack of author information, just a back photo, was “the form and function of Gordon Lish,” perhaps an attempt to emulate Truman Capote and his author photo and lack of author bio for Other Voices, Other Rooms.
Seems Dzanc Books will reissue Alive and Dead electronically via its rEprint Series. Would be cool if it included the three that the Knopf lawyers axed.