The Art and Life of Clarence Major

Title Details

Pages: 336

Illustrations: 22 b&w images and 17 color plates

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 05/15/2016

ISBN: 9-780-8203-4982-4

List Price: $29.95


Pub Date: 06/01/2012

ISBN: 9-780-8203-3055-6

List Price: $36.95

Subsidies and Partnerships

Published with the generous support of Sarah Mills Hodge Fund

The Art and Life of Clarence Major

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  • Description
  • Reviews

Clarence Major is an award-winning painter, fiction writer, and poet—as well as an essayist, editor, anthologist, lexicographer, and memoirist. He has been part of twenty-eight group exhibitions, has had fifteen one-man shows, and has published fourteen collections of poetry and nine works of fiction. The Art and Life of Clarence Major is the first critical biography of this innovative African American writer and visual artist. Given the full cooperation of his subject, Keith E. Byerman traces Major’s life and career from his complex family history in Georgia through his encounters with important literary and artistic figures in Chicago and New York to his present status as a respected writer, artist, teacher, and scholar living in California.

In his introduction, Byerman asks, “How does a black man who does not take race as his principal identity, an artist who deliberately defies mainstream rules, a social and cultural critic who wants to be admired by the world he attacks, and a creator who refuses to commit to one expressive form make his way in the world?” Tasking himself with opening up the multiple layers of problems and solutions in both the work and the life to consider the successes and the failures, Byerman reveals Major as one who has devoted himself to a life of experimental art that has challenged both literary and painterly practice and the conventional understanding of the nature of African American art. Major’s refusal to follow the rules has challenged readers and critics, but through it all, he has continued to produce quality work as a painter, poet, and novelist. His is the life of someone totally devoted to his creative work, one who has put his artistic vision ahead of fame, wealth, and sometimes even family.

A Sarah Mills Hodge Fund Publication.

This carefully researched bio-critical study not only provides a compelling view of Clarence Major’s life and multifaceted career but also offers signal insights into the life and work of other writers of African American descent whose artistic production has not been limited, and should not be read as limited, by ‘race.’

—Joe Weixlmann, editor emeritus of the African American Review

This groundbreaking study provides fresh insight into Major’s fiction, poetry, and painting. By drawing on previously unknown archival material and interviews, Byerman develops a rich account of Major’s life and sheds new light on the creative practice of an experimentalist who is quite possibly the most prolific African American writer of his generation.

—Linda Furgerson Selzer, author of Charles Johnson in Context

The Art and Life of Clarence Major provides a biography and critical study offering a close examination of Clarence Major’s life and art, in the process offering other insights into other African American writers who also have achieved great things. . . . Arts and literary collections as well as Afro-American holdings will consider this a winner!

Midwest Book Review

The author depicts Major as an antihero whom readers will indict for his personality and ethical choices yet will strive to understand because of his exceptional gifts and talents. Byerman takes on the daunting task of juxtaposing Major’s excellence and weaknesses in light of his relative obscurity in the overall American – even African American – literary canon.

—L. Lawson Jr., Choice

“Byerman provides a comprehensive introduction to Major’s career that succeeds by delving into lesser-known aspects of Major’s art, a process he alone was able to accomplish by gaining Major’s trust and being welcomed into his house—and his garage. The result will be appreciated by readers and used by scholars.”

—Amy Hildreth Chen, Callaloo

“Byerman’s critical biography of an important innovator offers much insight into a large and complex body of work, and also considers how such innovations are resisted by both African American and general American literary history.”

—Jerome Klinkowitz, American Literary Scholarship

“A provocative, informative postracial bio-critical study that complements Bernard W. Bell’s Clarence Major and His Art.”

—Journal of American Studies

About the Author/Editor

KEITH E. BYERMAN is a professor of English at Indiana State University. He is the author or editor of six previous books, including Remembering the Past in Contemporary African American Fiction.