The Complete Writings of Art Smith, the Bird Boy of Fort Wayne, Edited by Michael Martone is a Midwestern mythology that celebrates facts, fiction, and the impermanence of art. Inspired by the real-life pioneer of early aviation who invented the art of skywriting, the brief stories in this collection by “editor” Michael Martone follow the adventures of Art Smith and his authorship in the sky. In the spirit of Kurt Vonnegut and Hayao Miyazaki, The Complete Writings of Art Smith, the Bird Boy of Fort Wayne, Edited by Michael Martone recreates the wonder of the early flying machines as it reimagines the unwritten stories we tell about the daredevils who flew them.
“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