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Not Even Immortality Lasts Forever: Mostly True Stories by Ed McClanahan

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If all this is new to you, notice that this book was published in Berkeley, California, and that the press is named “counterpoint,” implying the opposite of mainstream publishing. For those of you who do not get the title: Don’t feel bad; neither do I. For those who do not know Ed McClanahan: I’m sorry. You are missing out. Ed is a delightful human being. Stop reading, turn your eyes away if you don’t want to hear a story about Ed that is a little scatological, because if you do mind, you don’t want anything to do with this book anyway. Go on to the next review. I promise the rest of the reviews this month will be totally gentlemanly. O.K. now for the story for the rest of you: It was 2005. A group of Kentucky writers had been on a two-day tour of mountain-top removal sites in Eastern Kentucky to solidify our opposition to the practice and give us some practical know-how to beef-up our writing about it. We had arrived at Eastern Kentucky University for our final public panel discussion, and I headed to the men’s room. Two other participants arrived at about the same time. One was an older gentleman, since deceased. He shuffled in, leaned his head upon his forearm which he placed on the wall above the urinal and gingerly unzipped and let it dribble. Then Ed McClanahan arrived, and the contrast could not have been greater. He pranced up to about two feet from the urinal, unzipped with a flourish, unleashed it, and aimed his blast at the urinal. Ta Dah!  Actually, the old gentleman was only three years older than Ed! Ed McClanahan was born, in 1932, and raised in Brooksville, the county seat of Bracken County, Kentucky, in northeastern Kentucky. He was one of four Kentuckians who received a prestigious Stegner Fellowship to study creative writing at Stanford during the 1960s along with Wendell Berry, Gurney Norman, and the late James Baker Hall. There Ed became close friends with Ken Kesey and unleased his hippie persona as “Captain Kentucky” and joined Kesey as one of the “Merry Pranksters.”  Later, Ed taught writing at the University of Kentucky, the University of Montana, and Northern Kentucky University.  He published his only novel, The Natural Man, in 1983, followed by Famous People I Have Known in 1985, and seven subsequent volumes, including this one, all of which are really memoirs which sometimes tame down and other times exaggerate his exploits – not that The Natural Man is all that different except as the way it was published. And eight volumes are perfectly appropriate given the quantity and quality of Ed’s exploits and associations. “How much is fiction? How much is memoir? Who cares: It's joyous." ―Kirkus Reviews.  “Has McClanahan led a more colorful life than the rest of us? Or does he paint the ordinary life with technicolor details? Either way, you will laugh." ―Lizz Taylor. “McClanahan’s rich material, ready wit, and unique turns of phrase hold interest.” ―Publishers Weekly. “Never again can I say that I don’t laugh out loud―or walk around reciting to the closest human―while reading a book.” – George Singleton. “His conversational style and frank humor imbue these pieces with wisdom and charm." ―Booklist. “From tall tale to artful hyperbole, the verbal wizardry in this fabulous book is tops. McClanahan always has a blast with words, running the language around in circles. He can’t just say 'a humble abode' when 'a humble ensquatment' will do. So much here is fresh and invigorating―and often tender and sweet. His portrayal of his father is especially touching. And there are dogs. I will treasure this memoir forever. It’s immortal!" ––Bobbie Ann Mason.

 Berkeley, California: Counterpoint Press, 2020. 177 pages. Hardback in dust jacket.