Books by Clarence Major

CHICAGO HEAT by Clarence Major
Released: Sept. 6, 2016

"With Major's attention to rhythm and the musicality of language, the result is a delightful feast for the senses."
Poet/painter/novelist Major (From Now On: New and Selected Poems 1970-2015, 2015, etc.) gives us a new collection of 23 short stories that explore the full range of the human condition. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2001

"Best for devoted fans of the author."
An eclectic compilation from a prolific writer and poet. Read full book review >
ALL-NIGHT VISITORS by Clarence Major
Released: Dec. 4, 1998

A new, unexpurgated edition of the 1969 Olympia Press novel that made Major (Dirty Bird Blues, 1996, etc.) a big name in Maurice Girodias's dirty-book pantheon. A classic autodidact, Major was one of those very bright young men of the 1950s who had read their way through Rimbaud long before they—d discovered Shakespeare or heard of Homer; this defiant opus, judging from its style, seems like the work of someone whose idea of the novel begins with Henry Miller and ends with Jean Genet. The book describes the experiences of Eli Bolton, a black Vietnam vet badly traumatized by the war and utterly disdainful of the white society he has returned to in America. A great part of the story takes shape as a succession of Bolton's rants, mostly concerned with his various conquests: the voracious Anita, the idealistic Cathy, the intellectual Eunice. Long descriptions of what Bolton does with Anita and Cathy and Eunice ensue, along with interpolated recollections of Vietnam and life on the streets in Chicago and New York—all written in the kind of interior patois that even Allen Ginsberg got tired of eventually ("Yeah, all kinds of battlefatigue monkeys strolling around here, bad shots hitting psychological maggie drawers all day long; I just get tired tired I keep a big funky headache all the time; lately I ain't said nothing to nobody but Dossy O, that's Cocaine which is the way my man keeps himself together"). Major offers reflections on race, politics, and society, but these are ultimately as pointless as the basic narrative—and yet less interesting. As fresh and exciting as an old Red Foxx routine, this is a good period piece for '60s junkies who don't take themselves too seriously. Read full book review >
DIRTY BIRD BLUES by Clarence Major
Released: June 1, 1996

Major, a prolific man of letters, seems to have abandoned for good the experimental styles that characterized much of his early work (My Amputations, 1986, etc.). His latest is a quite conventional morality tale dressed up with his extensive, if somewhat academic, knowledge of Afro-American slang. The lexicographer in Major (Juba to Jive: A Dictionary of African-American Slang, not reviewed) gets the better of him in an otherwise simple narrative about black life circa 1950. Manfred Banks, 25, born in Georgia, hates the winters in Chicago. An aspiring bluesman, he can't find day work and spends most of his waking hours in pursuit of the ``Dirty Bird'' (Old Crow whiskey). His wife has taken their baby girl to live with a preacher man, and his only friend, guitarist Solomon Thigpen, is also singing the ``dirty bird blues.'' A violent episode with the preacher and the police encourages Man to head to Omaha, where his older sister is leading a model life; her husband even lands Man a job at a steel plant, while Man begins gigging on weekends at the local hot spot. Soon Man's family joins him, and prospects look good until some racists at work decide to harass him. He retreats further into the bottle. When Solomon comes west, Man's wife fears the worst. But a long, drunken night, during which Man sees ``something deep and ugly come out'' in himself, sets him on the road to sobriety. This simple tale is punctuated with long stream-of-consciousness dream sequences in which Manfred imagines what success might be like, worries about losing his wife to Jesus, and sees himself lynched. Major also employs an extensive knowledge of the blues idiom- -Manfred is constantly thinking in lyrics, even if the moment doesn't seem to warrant it. There's a powerful, persuasive use of language here, but it's suspended in too studied a tale—one that never gets cooking. Read full book review >