Conversations with Clarence Major
Edited by Nancy Bunge
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"I like to create dreams in fiction and I think that writing good fiction can be a way of constructing interesting dreams."
For over forty years, Clarence Major (b. 1936) has engaged several artistic and literary pursuits, garnering acclaim for his paintings, edited anthologies, poetry collections, essays, and novels.
His work within literature ranges from his popular dictionary of slang, Juba to Jive: A Dictionary of African-American Slang (1994), to such experimental novels as Emergency Exit (1979), Reflex and Bone Structure (1975), and My Amputations (1986). He has gained a reputation as one of America's most visionary and experimental African American writers.
In Conversations with Clarence Major, the author comments thoughtfully on the diverse nature of his work. Major explores his influences, the methods he applies to the different types of writing he does, and his childhood in Atlanta and Chicago's South Side.
The same openness and curiosity that make his work so various and rich allow Major to focus on and respond to each interviewer's concerns. Journalists, scholars, and show hosts pose questions about particular works, about the different ways Major creates, about his teaching of writing, about his views of nature, and about youth.
In interviews from 1969 to 2001, Major transforms every interview into an encounter that informs him as well as the interviewer. His interest in the dynamic nature of language and life emerges in several discussions. "If language didn't change, it would die," he says in a 1994 interview. "It has to constantly change and evolve even if we're speaking at a small, secret level. It has to grow. Words are like organic things--they don't just go on. Some are reborn in different form."
Featuring a previously unpublished interview with the volume's editor, as well as conversations with such notables as Larry McCaffery, Conversations with Clarence Major shows how the mind of an enormously talented and multifaceted artist works while conveying a sense of the generosity and optimism that keep Clarence Major experimenting and learning.
Nancy Bunge, a professor of American thought and language at Michigan State University and the author of Finding the Words: Conversations with Writers Who Teach, has been published in Black Warrior Review, Poets & Writers Magazine, San Francisco Review of Books, the Washington Post, and American Poetry Review, among others.