This gathering of short fiction and essays traces the artistic sum of Ed McClanahan, a masterful Southern stylist working under the influence of Mark Twain, Flannery OConnor, and Eudora Welty. Highlighting the collection is “Grateful Dead I Have Known,” a long prize-winning meditation about Jerry Garcia and the fanatical devotion of his fans. Also collected here for the first time are McClanahans earliest short stories, along with book reviews, lost chapters of The Natural Man, and a substantial afterword to Famous People I Have Known. His recollections of famous friends and fellow travelers form an integral part of this book. He joins his buddy Ken Kesey in a bus-journey reunion with other gray-haired Merry Pranksters, and he pokes fun at his own graduate-school flamboyance in a touching remembrance of his mentor Wallace Stegner. This gathering of short fiction and essays traces the artistic development of the masterful southern stylist and storyteller Ed McClanahan. In this autobiography of a voice, the earliest stories are gloomy tales of existential despair, full of flashing neon signs, fly-specked mirrors, and characters whose eyes could be likened in various ways to black holes. How McClanahans writing evolved into the ribald comedy for which he is well-loved is a mystery unveiled in his fascinating ars poetica, “Empathy Follows Sympathy.” McClanahans nonfiction includes firsthand accounts of the hippie culture into which he dove headlong upon arriving in California. Whether reflecting on the once-radical urgency of a generation now aging, or a childhood that fellow Kentuckian Wendell Berry describes in his afterword as an ordeal of provinciality, McClanahan writes with warmth and hard-earned wisdom.
My Vita, If You Will
The Uncollected Ed McClanahan
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"A Kentucky native drawn to California by a writing fellowship, McClanahan has parlayed his Southern provincial sensibilities and front-row-at-Fillmore-West experiences into a mastery of language, and a valuable sensibility." —Publishers Weekly
ED MCCLANAHAN is the author of several books, and his writing has appeared in Esquire, Rolling Stone, and Playboy. He is the recipient of a Wallace Stegner Fellowship, two Yaddo Fellowships, and an Al Smith Fellowship. He and his wife live in Lexington, Kentucky.
“A Kentucky native drawn to California by a writing fellowship, McClanahan has parlayed his Southern provincial sensibilities and front-row-at-Fillmore-West experiences into a mastery of language, and a valuable sensibility… With help from editor Tom Marksbury (who also contributes an afterword), McClanahan has exposed himself as it were, laying bare the history of his entire body of work.” —Publishers Weekly
“Readers will certainly enjoy the short story “The Little-Known Bird of the Inner Eye,” in which a sculptor from Kansas goes to pursue his art in the Pacific Northwest and there meets a character he’ll never forget. And try McClanahan’s review of Richard Brautigan’s Revenge of the Lawn for an example of keen critical discernment.” —Booklist