McClanahan, Ed 1932-
McCLANAHAN, Ed 1932-
PERSONAL: Born 1932, in Brooksville, KY; married; wife's name, Hilda. Education: Attended Washington and Lee College; Miami (Ohio) University, A.B.; attended Stanford University; University of Kentucky, M.A.
ADDRESSES: Home—Lexington, KY. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Penguin Group, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.
CAREER: Writer and educator. Has taught English and creative writing at Oregon State College, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, 1963-72, University of Montana, University of Kentucky, and Northern Kentucky University.
MEMBER: Ohio/Kentucky/Indiana Writers' Roundtable (founder and chairperson).
AWARDS, HONORS: Wallace Stegner fellowship; two Yaddo fellowships; Al Smith fellowship.
The Natural Man (novel), Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (New York, NY), 1983.
A Congress of Wonders (stories), Counterpoint (Washington, DC), 1996.
(Editor, with Fred Nelson) One Lord, One Faith, One Cornbread, Anchor Press (Garden City, NY), 1973.
Famous People I Have Known (memoir), Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (New York, NY), 1985, with new afterword, Gnomon Press (Frankfort, KY), 1997.
My Vita, If You Will: The Uncollected Ed McClanahan, edited by Tom Marksbury, Counterpoint (Washington, DC), 1998.
Fondelle; or, The Whore with a Heart of Gold, a Report from the Field (limited edition), illustrated by Wesley Bates, Larkspur Press (Monterey, KY), 2002.
(Editor) Spit in the Ocean, All about Ken Kesey, Penguin (New York, NY), 2003.
Author of introduction to The Art of the Side Show, University of Kentucky Art Museum (Lexington, KY), 1997, and Kesey's Jail Journal, by Ken Kesey, Viking (New York, NY), 2003. Contributor to periodicals, including Esquire, Rolling Stone, and Playboy.
WORK IN PROGRESS: The Return of the Son of Needmore, a novel.
SIDELIGHTS: Ed McClanahan is best known for his novel The Natural Man, his memoir, Famous People I Have Known, and his fiction collection A Congress of Wonders. Born and raised in rural Kentucky, McClanahan earned a bachelor's degree from Miami University in Ohio and a master's degree from the University of Kentucky, and he later received a Wallace Stegner fellowship to teach writing at Stanford University. McClanahan lived in the San Francisco area for almost a decade, becoming friends with Ken Kesey, author of Sometimes a Great Notion and One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, and the driving force behind the Merry Pranksters, a group of counterculturists who donned outrageous clothes and experimented with psychoactive drugs. As Michael Hilleary noted in the Hanover Historical Review, "McClanahan is an uncommon link between the 1960s California hippie experience and a Kentucky lifestyle. His writings reveal a unique and humorous blend of insights based within both of these worlds. He is also part of a small group of writers which spanned both the end of the Beat movement and the birth of the new American counterculture." Hilleary concluded that "McClanahan is a distinctive voice within a crucial generation."
The Natural Man, published in 1983, is a coming-ofage novel set in the small town of Needmore, Kentucky, during the 1940s. In the work, history teacher Harry Eastep recalls his adventures with Monk McHorning, a gigantic orphan brought in to help the town's high school basketball team, and Oodles Ockerman, the girl Eastep longs for. A contributor in People called The Natural Man a "bright, laugh-aloud novel that is a joy from start to finish."
In McClanahan's 1985 essay collection, Famous People I Have Known, the author recounts his experiences as a student and a teacher, and he introduces readers to a cast of colorful characters. Campbell Geeslin, reviewing the work in People, stated, "McClanahan would have us believe that he was a friend of author Ken Kesey, guitarist Little Enis, and assorted raunchy flower children. He writes about them in a curious combination of raw four-letter explicitness and high literary style. The combination is exhilarating."
The 1996 work A Congress of Wonders, a collection of three novella-length tales set in Kentucky around World War II, features Professor Philander Cosmo Rexroat, a con artist whose presence serves to link the stories. According to Newsweek reviewer Malcolm Jones, Jr., in A Congress of Wonders "we meet a Fallen Woman, a Lost Soul, and a Boy Coming of Age. Magically, Rexroat's phony sorcery turns out in every case to truly transform these benighted citizens." "Artfully told, these droll, neo-gothic fairy tales are richly embroidered with threads of alchemy—and love," remarked a contributor in Publishers Weekly.
My Vita, If You Will: The Uncollected Ed McClanahan contains essays, reviews, and short fiction written over five decades. McClanahan reminiscences about a beloved writing teacher in "Bob's Lost Years: A Memoir of Robert Hazel," examines a sculptor's life in "The Little Known Bird of the Inner Eye," and describes a softball game between the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane in "Grateful Dead I Have Known." McClanahan "has parlayed his Southern provincial sensibilities and front-row-at-Fillmore-West experiences into a mastery of language, and a valuable sensibility," observed a critic in Publishers Weekly. In his review of My Vita, If You Will, Booklist contributor Brad Hooper called McClanahan "a writer's writer, which means he's little known outside writers' circles. Let the greater public be aware of his talents."
Despite the critical acclaim his works have received, McClanahan publishes infrequently. As he told Amy Fris in an interview for Cincinnati CityBeat Online, "Writing is like performing brain surgery on yourself—it's not something you want to hurry with. For me, it's a painstaking, intricate process because the language itself—I mean the sound of it, the internal cadences, the way the voices play off contrapuntally against each other—sometimes becomes the engine that drives the narrative, instead of the other way around."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Southern Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Booklist, May 15, 1996, Ray Olson, review of A Congress of Wonders, p. 1569; October 15, 1998, Brad Hooper, review of My Vita, If You Will: The Uncollected Ed McClanahan, p. 388.
Boston Globe, October 4, 1998, Amanda Heller, review of My Vita, If You Will, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times, March 23, 1983, Art Seidenbaum, review of The Natural Man, p. 14.
Newsweek, July 8, 1996, Malcolm Jones, Jr., review of A Congress of Wonders, p. 67.
New York Times Book Review, April 24, 1983, review of The Natural Man, p. 3; August 5, 1984, Ivan Gold, review of The Natural Man, p. 28; November 24, 1985, Andrea Barnet, review of Famous People I Have Known, p. 25.
People, May 2, 1983, review of The Natural Man, p. 24; November 25, 1985, Campbell Geeslin, review of Famous People I Have Known, p. 22.
Publishers Weekly, February 26, 1996, review of A Congress of Wonders, p. 81; September 14, 1998, review of My Vita, If You Will, p. 47.
AceWeekly Online, http://www.aceweekly.com/Backissues/ (October 10, 2002), Stephen Gearon, "A Modest Proposal: Rants from an Angry Citizen" (interview with McClanahan).
Cincinnati CityBeat Online, http://www.citybeat.com/ (March 21-27, 1996), Amy Firis, "Will Wonders Never Cease?" (interview with McClanahan).
Hanover Historical Review Online, http://history.hanover.edu/ (spring, 1995), Michael Hilleary, "Ed McClanahan and the Merry Prankster Bus Reunion Tour."
Kentucky Educational Television Web site, http://www.ket.org/ (March 4, 2002) "Living by Words: Ed McClanahan."*