Clarence Major Essay - Major, Clarence (Vol. 3)

Major, Clarence (Vol. 3)

Major, Clarence 1936–

Major is a Black American poet and novelist. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 23-24.)

Clarence Major and I shmael Reed are the mavericks of the new black poetry. They do not simplify their poems to make them easily accessible to "the people." Nor do they simplify their novels. "No," Major's second novel, is not an easy book. It makes one wonder where he will find readers for this brave but often confusing work….

[Most] black readers are unlikely to set aside the time to dig for the rewards in this almost encoded work. And white publishers tell us that white readers are no longer interested in black books….

When the code is broken, we discover a life twisted by castration and mutilation fears, and a mind filled with images of feces, blood, urine, racism, sex organs and death. All the characters are imprisoned by these images. In fact, we learn little else about them. They act out strange, sometimes macabre, dramas. They either torture Westby [the protagonist] or they fornicate with him; sometimes the two acts are indistinguishable.

The strength of the novel is not in the story line (which may take four or five readings to follow) but in the shocking images. These images sit like window displays in a shop that sells absolutely nothing except sex paraphernalia. This is a probing, honest book, which, among other things, proves that European Protestants are not the only men on earth pursued by Calvinistic demons.

George Davis, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1973 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), July 1, 1973, pp. 22-3.