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Walls: Essays, 1985-1990, Kenneth McClane's first book of autobiographical essays (originally published in 1991), is closely related to his second collection, Color, published by the University of Notre Dame Press in 2009. Walls is a powerful and deeply moving meditation on relationships. It begins with an essay on the death of McClane's brother, Paul, which changed everything. Time, my work, everything found a new calculus. His brother's life and death are present in some way in all the essays that follow A Death in the Family, as McClane tells us about giving a poetry reading in a maximum-security prison; his experience of being one of the first two African American students to attend America's oldest private school; teaching creative writing; his sister, Adrienne; a divestment protest at Cornell; and his encounters with James Baldwin. McClane has written a new preface to this paperback edition of Walls.
Walls reminds us of the differences that set us apart, dividing our world into good kids and troublemakers, winners and losers, the beautiful and the damned. The anodyne for exile in these essays is McClane's common but by no means commonplace lexicon, at once evocative and spare, that leads us to painful but honest connection and the luminous possibility of empathy. --William L. Andrews, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Kenneth McClane's Walls is a collection of exquisitely crafted autobiographical essays that rivals the most profound nonfictional writings of James Baldwin in its skillful investigation of the hidden recesses of the always-throbbing black American soul. Indeed, Walls is a beautifully calibrated exploration of the challenges faced by a courageously self-aware--and refreshingly self-revealing--black intellectual whose journey to and in the American mainstream is both menacing and exhilarating. --Michael Awkward, University of Michigan
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