Sunday, January 31, 2016

Bomb Magazine 2016 Recommendation: Clarence Major

Recently BOMB Magazine offered me and other writers and creative types the opportunity to share my thoughts some of the many books we're looking forward to this upcoming year, so I selected poet, novelist and visual artist Clarence Major's forthcoming collection Chicago Heat and Other Stories (Green Writers' Press, 2016).

Major (b.1936 -) is the author of 8 novels, 14 collections of poetry (including the 1999 National Book Award finalist collection Configurations), 2 collections of short fiction (including this one), 8 works of nonfiction, and 4 anthologies, among them 1969's landmark The New Black Poetry. His essay "Necessary Distance," the title of an eponymous collection of nonfiction that Tisa B. turned me onto, is one of many compasses I periodically return to.

Despite his prodigiousness and originality--this is a man who wrote a novel based on the premise that a Connecticut law required husbands to carry their wives across thresholds at home!)--his work remains far too little known, and should be much more heralded, read and discussed, so I am particularly looking forward to this new book. For Bomb I wrote:

One book I’m eager to get my hands on is acclaimed novelist, poet, and visual artist Clarence Major’s forthcoming collection of short fiction Chicago Heat and Other Stories. Though far less known than he should be, Major, as original as anyone writing today, has been successfully experimenting with the formal possibilities of fiction for over four decades, and has developed a distinctive, accessible, and unforgettable style. I’m enthusiastic to read and learn from what he accomplishes in this new gathering of stories.
About the new book Major's publisher writes:

Chicago Heat and Other Stories by Clarence Major, employs a gorgeous purity and simplicity of language in a series of masterful analyses examining human interaction. Each narrative voice comes forward all at once, individual and complete, without obstacle or complication, enabling the reader to see the characters and feel their emotions. Major does not shy away from the bitter or the harsh; we get to hear it all. Like paint on an easel he blends lyricality with moxie and the blunt with the beautiful. The characters come together as easily as they part; people leaving, coming back, going, staying—it all sticks and fades like heat on your skin. The imagery is completely accessible and generously given. Toni Morrison comes to mind. His work is like jewels.
Based on what I know of Clarence Major's work, this description barely touches the surface. Check it out this year.

More book 2016 recommendations by Dawn Lundy Martin, Albert Mobilio, Alan Gilbert, Chelsea Hodson, Justin Taylor, Ander Monson, Ken Chen, and Lawrence Giffin at the BOMB Magazine site!

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