Writers' Nook

Speakers: Clyde Edgerton

Clyde Edgerton

Clyde Edgerton
(April 10, 2003)

Richard J. Calhoun
Visiting Writers and
Teachers Series

"Edgerton takes on the pieties of church, family, and goodness, and, without
the least hint of mawkishness or falsehood, inspires them
with a laughable comedy that hits the mark and lingers"

—Kirkus Reviews, on Walking Across Egypt

Born and raised in the North Carolina Piedmont, Clyde Edgerton is the author of eight novels, including Walking Across Egypt, Killer Diller, and Lunch at the Picadilly, the first two of which have been adapted into films. His most recent project, Solo: My Adventures in the Air, his first non-fiction book, reflects on his flying years, which included five years flying for the Air Force after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he majored in English.

After serving in the Air Force, Edgerton received his master’s degree in English and taught the subject as a high school teacher. He now is a professor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Among other honors, he has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the North Carolina Award for Literature, and five notable book awards from The New York Times. More information about Clyde Edgerton can be found on his website, www.clydeedgerton.com.

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During his visit to Clemson University, Edgerton engaged with students in classes, discussion sessions, and workshops as part of the Richard J. Calhoun Visiting Writers and Teachers Series. Accompanying himself on banjo, he entertained his audience with readings from his fiction on April 10, 2003. Anticipating Clyde Edgerton's visit to Clemson University, Keith Morris of the English Department had the following to say about Edgerton's work:

I was talking to my introduction-to-fiction class yesterday about Mr. Edgerton's short story "Send Me to the Electric Chair," which I'd passed out in class, and I was trying to give them a better sense of his work as a whole, and I said that he wrote in a humorous vein about clashes within Southern culture--Old South vs. New South, black vs. white, educated vs. uneducated, Southern Baptist vs. everyone else--and almost as soon as the words were out of my mouth I started thinking That's not exactly right. Because his books aren't as adversarial as that--it's more like Old South and New South, black and white, educated and uneducated, Southern Baptist and everyone else, somehow. It feels like they're more about a slow process of cohesion, different elements of southern culture coming together than they are about conflict. And I started thinking about what it was that made them feel that way. I decided it was because the author refuses to take sides in the various debates, that he presents the material objectively--but then I figured out that that was wrong, too. He is taking sides--it's just that he's taking both sides. His sympathies extend to everyone. In my reading of Clyde Edgerton's work, it seems to me that he never met one of his own characters that he didn't like.

And so while there aren't always easy answers to his characters' dilemmas--the work isn't reductive and simplistic, in other words--you do feel that there's a warmth to the presentation. To paraphrase Chekhov, probably badly, it's not the writer's job to provide answers, only to state questions correctly. And with Clyde Edgerton's work the reader should know that, in the final analysis, there are still interesting questions to ask. But one thing's certain, and it's an important thing--maybe the most important thing, ultimately--and that is that the reader always feels that Clyde Edgerton's heart is in the right place.

Keith Morris
Associate Professor of English
Fiction Editor, The South Carolina Review

April 9, 2003

Solo: My Adventures in the Air cover image

Lunch at the Picadilly cover image

Walking Across Egypt cover image

Killer Diller cover image