About The Best American Nonrequired Reading Committee

Our selection committee consists of a handful of high school students. One
contingent is in the Bay Area and a second is in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
These students help Dave Eggers edit The Best American Nonrequired Reading.
Daniel Gumbiner is the book's managing editor; Henry W. Leung and Jia Tolentino
are the assistant managing editors facilitating the committee in Michigan.

This collection, published by Houghton-Mifflin, compiles the country's best
fiction, journalism, essays, comics, and humor every year, and introduces
a large readership to dozens of new writers and publications.

The Best American Nonrequired Reading committee comprising
students from dozens of different high schools meets nearly every week of the
year to read, debate, and compile this offbeat but vital anthology.

Want to say something to us? Contact the BANR committee at
nonrequired@gmail.com. We'll read everything you send us.

Meeting 10/28/08 (San Francisco)

[Transcribed discussion of “I Am Michael Martone,” by Carl Peterson and Michael Martone, published in Notre Dame Review.

This piece zeroes in on the annual Associated Writing Programs conference. The conference gathers together students, professors, editors, authors, publishers, and literary agents for readings and parties and conversations. In the case of this article, the conference was being held in Austin, Texas. When Carl Peterson, a student of Michael Martone’s at the University of Alabama, goes to the nametag table for his nametag, they don’t have one ready. “Would it be under a different name?” they ask. “Michael Martone signed me up,” says Peterson. The registrar looks through a box and eventually offers him Michael Martone’s nametag. Peterson decides at that moment to become Michael Martone for the conference. The article is a record of his experience.]

Adrian: I enjoyed it. I liked reading the piece and then reading the teacher’s comments, too. It was enjoyable to see that exchange. It seemed like a joke on how teachers edit their students’ work.

[This piece uses footnotes to set up a conversation between Peterson and Martone. Peterson wrote the essay and Martone wrote footnotes responding, replying, arguing and joking with Peterson’s text.]

Vicky: Yeah, I found the back and forth really interesting. It wasn’t very long, but there was a lot going on because there was this conversation between the article and the footnotes.

[The students were asked whether the article’s subject matter—A.W.P.—was too inside-baseball.]

Roxie: I don’t know. I didn’t care who Michael Martone was. I had never heard of him. I don’t think that mattered, though. The form was really interesting. There were other things to engage my attention besides whether or not I knew who Michael Martone was. It’d probably be more interesting if I did know who he was. But it’s okay if I don’t.

Will: I don’t know anything about this conference, but I thought the article was really funny. I loved the footnotes. Martone had some ridiculously funny one-liners. Like number twenty: “I am afraid I do not.”

[Footnote number twenty comes in response to the following passage from the main text of the article, written by Carl Peterson: “One woman about my age said to me, “Hey, you’re Michael Martone! My old roommate, Sarah ______ interviewed you. Remember?”]

Vicky: I agree. I thought the footnotes were funny.

Bora: I read it twice. Once without the footnotes and once with the footnotes. It was interesting to see how different a read it was in each case. That’s pretty interesting—how there are really two pieces, or maybe three, written here, woven together. Reading one or the other or both together gives you a different experience in each case.

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