Clarence Major is a versatile author who revels in the energy found in words and language. He has written numerous novels and books of poetry, as well as two slang dictionaries. “If language didn’t change, it would die,” he said in an interview. His work has earned him a lengthy list of awards, including the Pushcart Prize, the Western States Book Award for Fiction and the Fulbright Fellowship. He teaches 20th century American literature at the University of California at Davis, and, in addition to his literary talents, Clarence Major is a well-regarded painter.
His paintings have adorned many of his book covers, and his latest book, Myself Painting: Poems, brings together the visual and literary facets of his artistry. The two sides cohabit very nicely in his office as well.
First of all we’re in a very large room. One-third of it is for writing and the other two-thirds are for painting. My writing desk is in the one-third section. My desk is composed of two brown utility tables with formica tops and metal legs, and with lots of space beneath. They form an L-shape. I bought the tables at an office supply store.
What’s on your desk?
My computer sits at the bend in the L on the edge of one table, and my printer sits next to it on the other short end of the L. A file rack stands to my right elbow just behind the printer and it’s filled with folders each containing manuscripts or letters-to-be-answered or notes of various types. In front of this setup are fruit jars containing various types of writing instruments—pencils, pens, a pair of scissors, paperclips, a plastic bottle of Windex glass cleaner, Q-tips, and at the end, just behind me to the right, a box of tissues. By the way, the space beneath is filled with stacks of reams of paper, boxes of folders, computer software instructional booklets, office supplies such as tape, paperclips, etc.
What do you wish wasn’t on your desk?
Letters to be answered.
Are there artifacts in your office that relate to your current project?
Current projects of writing and/or painting? Well, both. On the other side of the room is my easel, flanked by another long utility table with coffee cans or big jars filled with paint brushes and plastic buckets of paint tubes. A music stand serves as a companion to my easel but it’s not used for music. I attach sketches, etc., to it so that while I work on a canvas I can refer to preliminary sketches. Everything in both working sections are “artifacts” relating to my “current” projects.
No. Occasionally my wife comes in and out.
What else surrounds you?
There’s a record player-radio behind me to the left on a bookcase. The bookcase is filled with books. Beyond it is a handmade free-standing case for DVDs.
What’s on the walls?
High on the walls around my writing desk are framed photos, all of them about 12 by 8 inches, of family and friends dating back 30 or 40 years.
What have you lost in your office that you really wish you could find?
Too many things to count.
What tools do you write with?
In bed, I write with pencils or pens. Otherwise I write at the computer.
Is anyone allowed to come in and clean?
Not in recent years. I vacuum the floor and dust but not often enough.
T. Myers is a writer who believes that dust is an essential element of the creative process. Photo and images by kind permission of Clarence Major