Visiting memoirist gives new life to visions of the past

By Cati Keith
Staff Writer

April 14, 2013

Photo courtesy of Cati Keith.

Photo courtesy of Cati Keith.

Author Ken McClane visited the university on April 11, 2013 in the Parson Union Building and read two essays from his books written from his experiences. McClane read only two essays, but that was more than enough for the audience to understand his life.

Before he read the essays he said, “It’s not finished, or what I mean is it’s not perfect. I put things away for two years”.

The first essay he read was called “Driving” from his book “Color”, which talked about his parents who had Alzheimer’s.

“ Each family is different, the disease I know is horrific and it can bring unimaginable pain that is intimate and disabling,” he said.

As he read the essay, it was remarkable how well he could remember everything that happened during this time.  He remembered the exact emotions of every moment, and the words that people said to him.

Because of the spot on description and the imagery used, it felt as though you were there; you were McClane.  You could see his mother and father, and you could feel the emotions he felt at the time.

After he finished this essay he apologized for not being able to read the whole thing. He only read the last part of the essay because he could not handle reading the part about his mother because it is still too painful for him.

After he finished reading the first essay he talked a little about the second essay saying once again, “it’s not perfect.”

In the second essay, McClane wrote about his family as well as living in Harlem, NY and the environment of his neighborhood during the 1950s.

He talked about the personalities of both his brothers Linwood and Paul to the point where you knew exactly who they were.  Linwood was a tough guy, and a bully who always seemed to find himself in a wrong situation.

Paul also seemed to attract the police.  He was completely different from his family; Paul was a night person while the other members were morning people.

Even though the McClane family loved each other, they were incomprehensible to each other.

Paul’s lifestyle was impulsive and lead him to his death of alcoholism in his early 30s.

McClane said, “he was so self-invested in his own life that is was hard for him to approach Paul.”

McClane considered going to Brown University in Rhode Island for graduate school.  Paul drove his brother from Harlem to Ithaca to pick up McClane. Then drove to Rhode Island so McClane could see the school.

Both Linwood and Paul supported Ken as long as they could by helping him through college and keeping in touch.

“Writing essays gives my emotions shape. My brother is gone but by including him in the essays it makes him real to others. It also allows me to say what I should have said,” McClane said.

Cati Keith is a senior majoring in communication and can be contacted at


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