Monday, April 6, 2009

Ebay Strangeness: Martone's Leftover Water

Michael Martone's Leftover Water sold today on ebay for over $20, crushing my maximum bid of $11.53. The following is the complete text of the ebay listing, including some inspired buyer questions and seller answers.


Writer Michael Martone's leftover water
Imbibe literary genius (dozens of authors) in one swig! Item number: 1503358701

You are bidding on approximately 8.3 ounces of Dasani water (plus backwash) in a 20-ounce plastic Dasani bottle (lot number NOV0909 TOC0931L3). This was left by writer Michael Martone on Wednesday, March 25th, 2009, after a reading at Brigham Young University, during which Martone read the “Contributor’s Note” where he talks about his mother writing his school assignments, "G# Minor 7th in the Second Inversion", and “Seventeen Postcards from Terra Incognita.”

Why should you want Michael Martone’s leftover water, especially when Elvis’s may come up for bid again? You may recall from one of Martone’s “Contributor’s Notes” that:

In his role as host of a reading, he is often faced with what to do with the leftover water of his guests … Martone is left behind to secure the room, coil the microphone cables, clean up, kill the lights. Part of the cleaning up part has always included the disposing of the evening’s water. Often the lecture halls and auditoriums are not outfitted with a sink. Indeed, the whole point of the headache of providing water in the first place has been the fact that the hall is not in close proximity to sources of water. So Martone has found that he has fallen into the habit of finishing the water himself, drinking the dregs from the glasses or bottles left by the readers like a priest ingesting the leftover Eucharist at the end of Mass. Martone does this more out of a sense of neatness and order, but, he supposes, there is some of the spirit involved as well. He has witnessed some really amazing performances, listened to the work of famous and remarkably gifted writers. And he has drunk their leftover water. Perhaps a part of him believes some of that talent and skill will find its way into his own metabolism through this communion with greatness. It is a kind of inoculation, by means of this tainted fluid, with the cooties of the greatest. Martone hopes, as he drinks, that its inspirational properties, if not the medicinal ones, have ‘taken.’

So, you’re securing decades’ worth of literary genius--“the cooties of the greatest”--all at once, through the cooties of this pioneering collector. Whose DNA might you find swirling in this literary stew? Gordon Lish, Tobias Wolff, Mary Karr, David Foster Wallace, William Gass, Jane Smiley, Lewis Hyde, Susan Dodd, Susan Neville, Tony Early, Louise Gluck, Dean Young, Louise Erdrich, Charles Baxter, AND MORE! Plus, with over eight ounces of the muse-juice, you can pass it around at your next writers’ group meeting and still have liquid to spare. Save it a few years, collect other writers’ backwash, spit in it yourself, resell it on eBay and make your money back, do what you want to do: you bought it; it’s yours.

Whatever you do with it--whether you gulp it down in one swig, savor it a sip at a time, share it with friends, or simply place it as a trophy on your writing desk--you may be assured of immediate inspiration and better literary output, followed by fame and adulation, and most likely a hefty advance on your next book, not to mention the royalties from the movie version, starring Sean Penn and Winona Ryder.*

In addition to this priceless H2O, the winning bidder will also receive a handwritten Postcard of Authenticity from Michael Martone congratulating him/her on his/her wise investment and certifying that the leftover water is indeed Martone’s.

*Results may vary; seller makes no guarantee, expressed or implied, of literary potion’s actual effectiveness at making your writing better.

Questions from other members : Writer Michael Martone's leftover water

Q: Hi, I'm interested in acquiring the Martone water for my rare waters collection. But I'd like to know, where did the water originally come from? I'd appreciate any information you can share about its origins.
A: Leaving aside questions of "origins" for the moment, the water in Martone's water bottle was taken from the Atlanta, Georgia, public water supply before it was purified by "reverse osmosis" (essentially straining through a filter) and "enhanced" with trace amounts of magnesium sulfate, potassium chloride, and salt (sodium chloride). The Coca-Cola company, which brings us Dasani water, assures us that "DASANI is water -- pure and essential. DASANI helps you embrace life with a fresh, optimistic outlook. As basic as breathing, DASANI quenches thirst naturally and deliciously." I'm feeling better already. [Do they realize that they're claiming that Dasani is as basic a breathing?] As for the origins of water on the earth, well, even Wikipedia doesn't quite know the answer, so I can't help you there. I will say, though, that thank goodness there is water on the earth, or how could we live!

Q: In question eight you refer to him as "Dr. Martone." When I graduated from his program, last year, he was Michael Martone, M.A. What institution within the past year granted the great one his doctorate? And what is he now a doctor in? Is he a real doctor (the medical kind)?
A: You're very observant! The truth is, there are plenty of "doctors" who don't have doctorates or medical licenses. To wit: Dr. Pat Robertson, Dr. Johnson, Dr. Demento. Samuel Johnson, for instance, left Oxford without a degree and though his friends long sought to obtain for him some document of his erudition, he received his master's only just before he published in monumental Dictionary of the English Language in 1755 (he was 46). His honorary doctorate degrees came a decade and two later, long after he'd acquired his honorific nickname. William Hazlitt didn't much like Dr. Johnson's writings, but James Boswell sure did: "Had Dr. Johnson written his own life, in conformity with the opinion which he has given, that every man's life may be best written by himself; had he employed in the preservation of his own history, that clearness of narration and elegance of language in which he has embalmed so many eminent persons, the world would probably have had the most perfect example of biography that was ever exhibited. But although he at different times, in a desultory manner, committed to writing many particulars of the progress of his mind and fortunes, he never had persevering diligence enough to form them into a regular composition." This is just fine by us. He wrote essays, not memoir. Super. Anyway, who'll be the first university to confer an honorary doctorate on Michael Martone? Perhaps it'll be Brigham Young. I'll ask.

Q: This is delicate, but I have to ask. Does Martone ever sell other fluids, as in, fluids, you know, that have already passed through certain of his bodily channels? I don't want to come right out and name what I'm looking for, but you get my drift?
A: You mean tears? You must mean tears. I can't think of anything else you might be referring to. The good news is, YES, I believe I recall Martone, moved by his own poetical prose, eyes glistening, a drop meandering slowly from his moist ducts to the tip of his nose, gathering mass, tensing, testing the limits of molecular cohesion until, in the exact moment that he unscrewed the cap of his 20-ounce Dasani water bottle, the teardop dripped and dropped--plop--right into the open mouth of the vessel.

Q: Is this your only Martone item or will you be auctioning other collectibles? I'm most interested in Martone's water from AWP conferences, or pieces of toast with the burnt silhouette of his pompadour...
A: Thank you for bidding and asking this intriguing question, though I have to take issue with your characterization of Martone's hairstyle. The pompadour, which I've just researched a tad (, is short on the sides, combed up in front and back on top, forming a kind of smoothly rounded forehead shelf. Think Elvis, Roy Orbison, James Dean. If you're interested in making your own pompadour (while you still can; I'm beyond this possibility), you may find the instructions at useful. Additionally, you may find it interesting/frustrating to learn that the pompadour is named for Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, who was King Louis XV's mistress in the mid-eighteenth century. Did she wear her hair like this? Not according to the portraits. So why do we trace the etymology of the hairstyle to her? Because "she introduced these styles." Whuh? To make a long story short: I am hoping the exclusivity of this Martone Memorabilia will send its auction price skyrocketing. I have nothing else to auction (at this time).

Q: I have seen the pictures of Michael Martone you have posted. How can I be sure that the Michael Martone who gave the reading was the Michael Martone who wrote the book Michael Martone? Does the Michael Martone who will write the postcard of authenticity of the water come with any kind of certificate that he is indeed Michael Martone or the Michael Martone?
A: "But how do I know that there is not something different altogether from the objects I have now enumerated, of which it is impossible to entertain the slightest doubt? Is there not a God, or some being, by whatever name I may designate him, who causes these thoughts to arise in my mind ? But why suppose such a being, for it may be I myself am capable of producing them? Am I, then, at least not something? But I before denied that I possessed senses or a body; I hesitate, however, for what follows from that? Am I so dependent on the body and the senses that without these I cannot exist? But I had the persuasion that there was absolutely nothing in the world, that there was no sky and no earth, neither minds nor bodies; was I not, therefore, at the same time, persuaded that I did not exist? Far from it; I assuredly existed, since I was persuaded. But there is I know not what being, who is possessed at once of the highest power and the deepest cunning, who is constantly employing all his ingenuity in deceiving me. Doubtless, then, I exist, since I am deceived; and, let him deceive me as he may, he can never bring it about that I am nothing, so long as I shall be conscious that I am something. So that it must, in fine, be maintained, all things being maturely and carefully considered, that this proposition (pronunciatum ) I am, I exist, is necessarily true each time it is expressed by me, or conceived in my mind."

Q: What color is the water?
A: Color, when understood beyond the 64-variety Crayola box, is essentially the eye- brain's perception of a certain wavelength range of electromagnetic radiation (approx. 390-730 nm), which we call visible light. An object's color, then, basically consists of the wavelengths of light that it reflects or transmits (as opposed to absorbs). Other factors, such as viewing angle, reflectiveness, source-light, etc. can also influence color perception. In the case of water, small amounts, such as the approximately 8.3 ounces offered here for auction, tend to be viewed as "clear." Yet, as you no doubt remember from your high school physics course, water tends to absorb the longer wavelengths of light (the red end of the visible spectrum) while allowing the shorter wavelengths (blues) to pass through. This effect is enhanced by particulates suspended or dissolved in the water. Water may also reflect ambient light (from the sky, the table it's placed upon), thus offering the curious viewer a soothing spectrum of grays or browns. I highly recommend viewing your Michael Martone Water in a variety of settings and under a variety of circumstances. Perhaps the most rewarding would be this: place a shining flashlight horizontally in a darkened room. Face the same direction as your flashlight beam, a few steps to the side. Hold your Michael Martone water at arm's length in front of you at a 45-degree angle. Turn the bottle, tilt it a little this way, a little that way, raise it, lower it, to find the optimal viewing position. Soon you should see, on the right side of the water, a red sliver; soon you will recognize the rainbow! And thus we see that Michael Martone's leftover water is all colors.

Q: How will you ship this leftover water of Michael Martone? Will certain precautions be taken, it being not just water, which is, speaking from personal experience, tricky enough to ship, but also a unique collector's item? Thank you for your time.
A: In order to keep would-be mail thieves off the trail of this valuable and unique collector's item/literary potency potion, I will mail the bottle, padded by Styrofoam(TM) "peanuts" or bubble wrap, in an inconspicuous corrugated cardboard box of indeterminate dimensions. Contrarily, I am happy to simply spill the water in a major river upstream from you, at a preappointed time, or to simply leave the bottle uncapped outside in the sun for several days so the water evaporates and rejoins the Great Cycle of Life, to then rain down and bless the earth and her inhabitants with deeply moving ideas and inspirations (I'll have to charge a little extra to do my rain dance to make the winds blow the clouds from Utah toward your home).

Q: Would it be possible for Martone to personalize the Postcard of Authenticity?
A: Ooh yeah. It's a handwritten postcard from MIchael Martone telling you A) that the water is authentic; B) that you're awesome; C) don't drink it all now; save some for later.

Q: Hello, madcabre ... (though I wonder who you are). This is Vince Gotera, editor of the North American Review. Michael Martone is one of the NAR's contributing editors, so we are very interested in your auction. ;-D But I'm really writing because if I wondered if I could import your eBay auction text, pictures, and Q&As into my blog? As you know, after 90 days your auction will go poof, so I'm offering eternal access by Michael's fans (and yours) to your wonderful joke/spoof/moneymaking scheme. Possible? --Vince
A: Hello Vince! Of course. That sounds like a wonderful plan. We're fans of the North American Review here in Utah, and we're all for cyberimmortality!

Q: Are there any visible signs of Martone's interaction with the water bottle (floating particles, teethmarks on the cap from opening it, etc.)?
A: I submit into evidence the video stills of Martone drinking from this very bottle of water. From that point to now, I will submit my own spotless record of honesty and truth-telling, even down to my choice of literary genre. Dr. Martone has also agreed to send to the winner a handwritten Postcard of Authenticity suitable for framing or recycling. Of course, you are free to hire your own forensics expert to verify the water bottle's authenticity. Next time you see Martone, simply pluck one of his long gray hairs to get your DNA match. As for the other writers whose germs are also likely swimming in this swill, you'll simply have to believe Martone. We do.

Q: I'd like to inquire about the safety of this product... has Martone been tested for Insanity and other transmittable mental conditions?
A: You are hoping, perhaps, to catch some of what he has? Some of that "benign neurosis" (to borrow a phrase from George Higgins) called "writing"? That's understandable. It is, after all, a rare individual who will hole up for hours, conversing only with himself, spinning stories and ideas from gossamer words, lining them up neatly (or putting them in a cage to fight to the death), straining for communication. If at the microscopic level our atoms never quite touch, then maybe words and diseases are all we have to reach one another.

Q: Does Martone floss?
A: Allow me, instead, to answer the questions I think you're really asking: 1) Did Martone floss soon before drinking, thereby limiting the quantity of valuable food morsels floating in the water? A: No, he did not. The water is sufficiently infested. 2) Why is flossing important? A: If you're like me, then you may floss occasionally, when you remember and aren't too tired, without much gusto. But hear ye my sad tale: Now I've got "deep pockets"--and not the kind that begets prodigal spending--which means "deep cleaning" from the dentist, which hurts, and requires quarterly instead of biannual visits, which most insurance companies won't quite cover, which does some damage to those "shallow pockets" most writers have, which brings up this interesting note from the dictionary--"floss: v. intr. to flirt; to show off, esp. (in later use) by flaunting one's wealth, possessions, etc."--a thing Michael Martone most certainly does not do.



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