The Winter 2004 issue of Indiana Review includes an interview of Michael Martone by Sara Jane Stoner. Martone writes fiction that is more experimental than most, and he challenges the way fiction is taught these days in most MFA programs.
“I think the downside of the prose workshop is all of a sudden you're really talking about the ideas or themes of the story. Or worse, you're talking about the characters, these artifices, as actual people—whether or not ‘Jim Bob’ would do this. ‘You know, he’s twelve-years-old, I don’t think he really would be thinking these thoughts.’ It becomes a kind of analysis of these characters as living humans as opposed to the writing itself. Because again, the strategy of that writing, of realistic narrative writing, is to completely disappear as writing. So you can’t talk about it. It becomes, if it is done well at all, an invisible thing.”
Martone argues against this. He says,
“If you’re a realist, your real problem, your real competitor, is nonfiction, the nonfiction memoir. If you look at the form of realistic writing, it is already in the form of the memoir, a fake one, a fiction of one.”
Martone challenges the author of fiction to be an artist, which for Martone means someone "more self-conscious about [fiction's] forms." He works at shifting workshoppers back into the position of readers instead of critics or editors, people who would ask, "What makes this a well-wrought sentence?" He notes that students workshopping a Barthelme story would be forced to do this, which makes me think of Grace Paley and Lydia Davis stories, Ben Marcus novels. They're not about realism, they are other forms of fiction.
Indiana Review is one of my favorite journals, not because I always like the work published, but because the work pushes boundaries that other first-class journals don't often push. That said, some of the work in the Winter 2004 issue knocked me out, the flash by T. J. Beitelman, short stories by Robin Black and Shaun McGuire -- excerpt here, poems by Deborah Bernhardt, Karen L. Anderson, and others.
I recommend you subscribe to Indiana Review, read Martone's interview, along with the rest of the issue. Read a book by Martone, for example, his The Blue Guide to Indiana, which I haven't read but intend to now.