Clarence Major is a prizewinning short story writer, novelist, poet and painter. As a finalist for the National Book Award he won a Bronze Medal for his book Configurations: New and Selected Poems 1958-1998. Major was a finalist for the Los Angeles Book Critics Prize and The Prix Maurice Coindreau in France. He is the recipient of The Western States Book Award, The National Council on The Arts Award, a New York Cultural Foundation Award, The Stephen Henderson Poetry Award for Outstanding Achievement (African-American Literature and Culture Society of The American Literature Association), the Sister Circle Book Award, two Pushcart prizes, the International Literary Hall of Fame Award (Chicago State University), the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award in the Fine Arts, presented by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and other awards. He is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California at Davis.
In Waiting for Sweet Betty, Major watches the world with careful longing to capture the exchanges and conflicts between person and place. Just as a painter juxtaposes colors and shapes, Major does the same with words, often writing as an outsider in foreign places. He shifts perspective away from the self, allowing words to play off one another subtly -- with puns, inverted/subverted cliches, and sweet bop soundings -- so that his vision might become anyone's. His subtle, conversational style, is at once humble, playful, humorous, and studied, and his stories can be seen as well as heard.
In Conversations with Clarence Major, the author comments thoughtfully on the diverse nature of his work. Major explores his influences, the methods he applies to the different types of writing he does, and his childhood in Atlanta and Chicago's South Side.
The same openness and curiosity that make his work so various and rich allow Major to focus on and respond to each interviewer's concerns. Journalists, scholars, and show hosts pose questions about particular works, about the different ways Major creates, about his teaching of writing, about his views of nature, and about youth.
In interviews from 1969 to 2001, Major transforms every interview into an encounter that informs him as well as the interviewer. His interest in the dynamic nature of language and life emerges in several discussions. "If language didn't change, it would die, " he says in a 1994 interview. "It has to constantly change and evolve even if we're speaking at a small, secret level. It has to grow. Words are like organic things -- they don't just go on. Some are reborn in different form."
Featuring a previously unpublished interview with the volume's editor, as well asconversations with such notables as Larry McCaffery, Conversations with Clarence Major shows how the mind of an enormously talented and multifaceted artist works while conveying a sense of the generosity and optimism that keep Clarence Major experimenting and learning.