MY AMPUTATIONS by Clarence Major


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From experimental writer Major (Emergency Exit, 1979; Reflex and Bone Structure, 1975), an amusing but obscure literary cat-and-mouse game in which an ex-convict assumes the identity of a famous writer. Mason Ellis is a black man from the slums of Chicago who grows up into a life of crime and is eventually thrown into Attica State Prison for a longish spell. While there, he somehow gets the idea that famous black writer Clarence McKay is really him--McKay's books are his, and so is McKay's life (which Mason often checks up on by reading various reference books and Who's Who guides). Once out of prison, he kidnaps McKay (known as ""The Imposter""), assumes his identity, and goes on a hilarious lecture tour that takes him to Howard University, Sarah Lawrence, all over the country; he reads from his own never-ending work-in-progress, and is wined and dined throughout academia. He also manages to have McKay's Magnan-Rockford Foundation grant transferred to his bank account (""You've changed a bit,"" says the fund's smiling administrator). But when one of his former partners in crime threatens to spill the beans, Mason heads for Europe, where the novel takes an even more surreal turn, Mason wanders through England, France, Italy, and Germany, barely escaping terrorist bombings and kidnappings and robberies everywhere. No one ever questions his identity, and it's possible that Mason is indeed McKay, and has been all along--or is it just that no one really cares? Or is he only hallucinating? In the end, Mason ends up wandering through Africa (Nigeria, Ghana) looking for the secret message that will tell him who he is. After a promising and very funny beginning, the novel trails off into run-of-the-mill surrealism and seemingly autobiographically- derived meanderings, as if in a literary exercise done only for its own sake. Still, Major is a talented writer with an extremely sharp eye.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1986
ISBN: 1573661430
Publisher: Fiction Collective