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Book of the Week — Parking Lots

“All across America we
travel, on and on
and I remember Heather
saying, All I need
is a post office
and a liquor store,
but the sky is good,
with reasons drawn clear
like afternoon light.”

Parking Lots
Clarence Major
Illustrations by Laura Dronzek
Mount Horeb, WI: Perishable Press, 1992
PS3563 A39 P3 1992

Clarence Major was born in Atlanta, Georgia on New Years Eve, 1936. Though originally from the South, Major grew up in Chicago, where he was first introduced to the world of art. He studied drawing and painting under the direction of Gus Nall while also attending classes at the School of Art Institute of Chicago. His first public show was presented with a group of local artists at the Gale Gallery on Sixty-Third Street in the mid-1950s. In addition to drawing, Major was also invested in writing poetry and fiction. During his early twenties he created his own literary magazine, Coercion Review, which featured prominent counter-culture writers such as Henry Miller, Kenneth Patchen, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Major briefly moved away from painting and writing to work as a research analyst under the direction of sociologist and criminal justice activist, Dr. Sol Chaneles. During this time, he analyzed media coverage of the 1960s riots and also investigated the riots personally in cities such as Detroit and Milwaukee. However, by 1967,  Major decided to turn to teaching full-time, first at a summer program in Harlem at the New Lincoln school. 

Major’s first novel, All Night Visitors, was published in 1969 by Olympia Press. The novel tells the riveting, erotic, and compelling story of Eli Bolton — orphan, college dropout, Vietnam veteran, and sexual voyager — as he struggles to establish a meaningful self-identity in a chaotic and bigoted world. The following year, Major released his first collection of poems, Swallow the Lake, printed by Wesleyan University Press. Over the years, he has penned fifteen collections of poetry, including this edition of Parking Lots, which was published as a limited edition by Walter Hamady’s Perishable Press in 1992. 

Over the course of four decades, Major taught literature and creative writing at various universities and colleges across the country, before settling at the University of California Davis where he taught for eighteen years, until his retirement in 2007. He now holds the title of distinguished professor emeritus of twentieth-century American literature there. Major has also served on the editorial staff of several literary periodicals and received many awards for both his painting and writing. Among his many honors he was awarded the 2015 “Lifetime Achievement Award in the Fine Arts” by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and the 2016 PEN Oakland/Reginald Lockett Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2021, Major was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.


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