LITERATURE

The Essential Clarence Major: Prose & Poetry

Univ. of North Carolina. Jun. 2020. 320p. ISBN 9781469658780. $60; pap. ISBN 9781469656007. $23. LIT
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Major (emeritus, Univ. of California, Davis) has long been recognized by scholars of African American literature; yet, unfortunately, this quirky but highly engaging author is far less well known by general readers. This anthology of his fiction, nonfiction, and poetry should help to rectify the situation. Selections from his experimental novels, such as Reflex and Bone Structure and My Amputations, are included and can spark readers to read the works in their entirety. But the real surprises here are among the shorter works. The story “My Mother and Mitch,” for example, is an intriguing sketch of an interracial couple. There are also insightful essays on literary luminaries James Baldwin, Richard Wright, and William Faulkner, as well as Major’s reflections on writing and painting, another medium in which he has excelled. In addition, there is an illuminating excerpt from Major’s memoir. Finally, there are selections from his poems. “Hair” and “The Slave Trade: View from the Middle Passage” are two that particularly stand out. A short but insightful foreword by author Kia Corthron (The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter) makes an excellent introduction to this underappreciated writer.
VERDICT Recommended for all libraries with substantial collections of African American and contemporary American literature.

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