Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#177 Brian Oliu: He Loves the Kaplunk

Brian Oliu was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He was an only child and his childhood was great. He spent a lot of times in piles of leaves. He played a lot of video games and ate a lot of cookies. Growing up, Brian learned a lot of useless trivia, including an absurd amount about fragrances (because he is larger than most people and was always afraid of smelling terrible when he was a kid, so he did his research). In high school, he played football (tight end) and basketball (power forward). In college, Brian studied English at Loyola in Baltimore, in part, because his friends were all English majors. He started writing essays and memoir—after he realized that he was awful at making things up. Another thing that you should know about Brian is that his ex-girlfriends all move away immediately after or close to the end of their relationship. His first kiss moved a few miles away and out of his elementary school district. His first girlfriend moved to Rhode Island in the fourth grade. His high school girlfriend moved to Los Angeles. His college girlfriend moved to San Diego. The girlfriend after that moved to the United Kingdom. So Brian moved Tuscaloosa, Alabama to terminate the loop. He also moved there to work on his MFA and currently runs the flag football league for the University of Alabama English Department; its mantra: athlete's mind, poet's body. Once, Brian spent an entire year in Belgium drinking beer, eating beef stew with fries, and hanging out with his Italian roommate Danny Apples (this name isn’t made up), a male model from Milan. Brian wears a lot of brightly colored track jackets. Also, he beat Contra and Super C without the Konami 30 Lives code. He really loves his computer and the internet a lot (but doesn’t like that he now has a very short attention span for anything that isn't sitting in front of his computer). When Brian isn’t designing of websites, he’s viewing of ephemera on the web. Plus, he loves the kaplunk of the GChat new message. Right now, Brian is wrapping up his MFA at the University of Alabama and teaching composition and creative writing there. He has a bad tendency to count down the time he has to do something, even if he’s having a great time or his on vacation. He wishes he didn’t do that. Also, he’s going to Romania to do a reading tour with his friend, the poet Jeremy Allan Hawkins. Next year, he’s going to become an instructor at the University of Alabama. And Brian just finished a memoir called i/o—it's going out to publishers as soon as he becomes less afraid of sending it out.

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#160 Particularly Michael Martone

Michael Martone was born in 1955 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, which is one of the things that made Michael Martone particularly Michael Martone. Michael Martone’s childhood was like many childhoods at the end of the baby boom—happy, rich, optimistic. His mother was a high school English teacher and Michael Martone loved reading mythology—in part because the translator (Edith Hamilton) was from his hometown, in part because she made the mythology new. Growing up, Michael Martone loved to make model airplanes (each with its own nose mascot or variation of camo paint) and 54mm soldiers (the uniformity of uniforms, the slight variation in the details of the dress and how those details can be read)—theme and variation. In junior high school, Michael Martone wore black-and-white saddle shoes (for their black-and-white-ness). In high school, Michael Martone was mostly speech and debate, reading and writing, government and politics; he also wore black-and-white saddle shoes (because they were the first gym shoe). At Butler University and then at Indiana University, Michael Martone continued to wear black-and-white saddle shoes (for their iconic nature). Michael Martone graduated with a degree in English, and, for a while, worked in a bookstore. In graduate school at Johns Hopkins University, Michael met the poet Theresa Pappas. The first thing he noticed about her was the brightly colored socks she wore, and, after that, they got married. For all these years, Michael has admired her strength and her intensity, her devotion and her intelligence. The strangest thing Michael Martone ever did was become a father—two sons, Sam and Nick—but he loves the rewiring that takes place when one has children. For the past 30 years, Michael Martone has taught creative writing—at four different universities (now at the University of Alabama). At one university, at a party, a drunk colleague threw a drink at a woman student. The fallout from that gesture changed Michael Martone’s life in profound ways. It made him rethink and reimagine what it means to be a teacher, a writer, a man; his notions of what art is, what fiction is, what power is; what a family is and whether that should that be a model for a program, a department, or any job. Over the past 25 years, Michael Martone has published 12 books of fiction and nonfiction—including The Flatness and Other Landscapes (2000), Michael Martone (2005), Unconventions (2005), Double-Wide (collected fiction; 2007), and, most recently, Racing in Place (2008). Right now, Michael Martone is on a semester leave and hopes to finish up 3 or 4 books he’s been working on. He also wants to keep running, to start a compost heap, and to redesign his garden to include more vegetables. He wants to work harder to care and to not care. He wants to learn how to sit still. He stays in touch the best he can.

[Note #1: This postcard life story is part of a series of postcard life stories that appear in Keyhole #6 (guest edited by William Walsh), where all the contributor bios will be postcard life stories--the idea being to make every possible aspect of the magazine literature.]
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