|About Clyde Edgerton||
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who knew Clyde Edgerton during his childhood would have predicted that he
would grow up to be a writer. Odds would have been placed on his being either
a professional baseball player or a rock musician, or, if his parents
wishes had been fulfilled, a missionary or a concert pianist. He loved to
hunt and fish and hang out with his "good buddies." There was
little indication that he had the slightest literary leanings.
Edgerton was born May 20, 1944, in Durham, North Carolina, and then lived in a small community, Bethesda, on the outskirts of the city. He was the only child of Truma and Ernest Edgerton. Even though his immediate family was small, he lived near a total of 23 aunts and uncles and many cousins. He visited in their homes and saw them at reunions, at grave cleanings, and on other special occasions. His mothers family were primarily cotton farmers, and his fathers family grew tobacco. His parents were among the first of the family members to leave the farm.
Growing up in a rural area, Edgerton had a happy childhood. His outgoing personality and keen sense of humor contributed to his popularity in the community. "Drama during this period," Edgerton recalled, "came from baseball, hunting, and playing Robin Hood with my friends in the woods." He was particularly proficient in baseball. For nine summers, including his freshman year in college, Edgerton played on some type of baseball team. Even though he spent more time with his mother, he was very devoted to his father who taught him to hunt in the wooded areas near his home. His interest in music was due to his mothers insistence on his taking piano lessons when he was 7.
Edgertons choice of English as a major in college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill evolved slowly. Though he was a good student who enjoyed literature, his reading had been somewhat sporadic. During high school he remembers being impressed by Emerson, Thoreau and Twain. But, after reading Hemingways A Farewell to Arms as a college sophomore, he decided to be an English teacher. He wanted to share his excitement for such literature with others.
During his undergraduate years, Edgerton was a student in the Air Force ROTC program, where he learned to fly a small plane. Upon graduation in 1966, he received a commission and entered the U. S. Air Force. For the next 5 years he served on active duty as a fighter pilot based in the United States, Korea, Japan, and Thailand.
After his return from the Air Force, Edgerton decided to complete a masters degree before starting a teaching career. With this degree he accepted a faculty position as an English teacher in his old high school. He was an outstanding teacher, willing to try innovative and creative strategies in the classroom. Because of his success as a teacher he was encouraged to return to the University to begin a doctoral program. As a graduate student he worked as a teaching assistant in the program designed for prospective teachers of English.
Edgertons decision to be a serious writer was a very deliberate one, but somewhat of a surprise even to him. He had been keeping a journal, jotting down ideas, feelings, characters, and events on paper. He planned to use this resource in case he continued to write. In May 1978, the Edgertons watched Welty read one of her stories on public television. That night he wrote in his journal: "May 14, 1978Tomorrow, May 15, 1978I would like to start being a writer." That was the beginning of a career that has resulted in the creation of seven novels: Raney, Walking Across Egypt, The Floatplane Notebooks, Killer Diller, In Memory of Junior, Redeye, and Where Trouble Sleeps. Their critical reception led to his receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lyndhurst Fellowship, [and] the North Carolina Award for Literature, a Distinguished Alumni Award from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Education Department, and five notable book awards from the New York Times. Because of his ability to bring his literature to life in readings, he continues to be very much in demand as a speaker and a reader of his own fiction.
- This biography is an excerpt from a chapter on Clyde Edgerton by R. Sterling Hennis, from CONTEMPORARY FICTION WRITERS OF THE SOUTH, edited by Joseph Flora and Robert Bain. Greenwood Press, 1993.
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