My Vita, If You Will

Ed McClanahan, Author, Tom Marksbury, Editor Counterpoint LLC $16.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-887178-77-8
""This is really a book about a writer finding his voice,"" explains McClanahan (A Congress of Wonders; Famous People I Have Known), describing this assemblage of short fiction and essays written over five decades. From a 1952 C+ student story to the delightful nitrous oxide-vapored memoir ""Grateful Dead I Have Known"" (1972), McClanahan emerges as the stylist of the ""wild-eyed anarcho-syndicalist Yippie peace creeps"" generation. An endearing candor marks his comments on his career's triumphs and setbacks as he admits to an early fondness for ""descriptive tics"" and ""wretched excesses."" His memoirs of his days as a prot g and colleague of Ken Kesey, Richard Brautigan, Wallace Stegner, Bernard Malamud and others are devoid of braggadocio and full of bemused affection. McClanahan watched a baseball game between the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane, and he rode Kesey's psychedelically retrofitted school bus three decades after Tom Wolfe did. 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, as seen in the tantalizing sops of short fiction here, notably ""Postcard"" and ""The Greatest Writing Ever Wrote."" 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. Robert Stone, who met McClanahan in a writing class three decades ago, contributes a short foreword. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/14/1998
Release date: 09/01/1998
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