It's hard not to be impressed by the strangeness and originality of Michael Martone's literary project: fictionally documenting life in the state of Indiana. And though I'm on record stating my view that the best fiction is about the human mind, reading Double-wide makes me reconsider. Martone is brilliant at showing what it's like to be alive, physically, in the world. His stories are full of details, sensations, and surprising connections. One story's narrated by James Dean's first drama teacher; Alfred Kinsey tells another. I haven't gotten to the Dan Quayle stories yet, but I can't wait. Other stories are told by regular anonymous Indianans. Martone's introduction is worth reading, as well. He explains how changes in the tax laws in 1979 altered the nature of publishing, and what it's like being a "regionalist from a region-less region."
What I love about this collection is how it is simultaneously modest and incredibly confident. There's nothing showy about his language, yet the particularity and sureness of Martone's vision -- when writing about Colonel Sanders or a woman collecting the free dish each week at the movie theater -- is truly one-of-a-kind. It is also hilarious.