In his A Man From Ohio trilogy, Edward Clark relates the story of a life at once entirely familiar and remarkably singular.
Volume I: Home and Beyond charts the origins of Clark’s hardworking small-town Ohio family; his early childhood, played out with cautious joy beneath the ever-present shadow of the Great Depression; an adolescence marked in equal measure by hopeful confidence and uncertain prospects; the brief euphoria of college life, cut short by war; involvement in the Allied push for victory in Europe; an emerging wanderlust and the growing sense that, maybe, the Continent was his true home. In prose that is forthright, evocative and often luminous, Clark recounts a life that, while tethered to the twin pillars of a loving family and the unquestioned traditions of Christian middle America, is inexorably drawn into the larger world—fraught with change and the unknown, with obstacles and dangers both real and imagined—by his own burgeoning need to understand the why of things.
Volume ll: At Home and Abroad, continues the story. Returning from the war, Clark’s small town seems yet smaller, too small to contain his quest for words, learning, and life. He eventually returns to Europe and continues his education through the halls of Cambridge University in England, the Sorbonne in France, and Heidleberg College in Germany. A small-town man, with an expanded mind, he balances his homespun values against his real world experiences, hungers for life and love, searches for a place where all he is and all he wants to be can coexist.
Far from offering the reader a safe interpretation of events filtered through the soft lens of memory, Clark relates them precisely as they were lived and felt, thereby allowing the reader to experience happenings of long ago as if they were happening once again. Equal parts archivist and storyteller, Clark supplements an impressive knack for recall with a healthy dollop of period sources: family letters and court documents, sports columns and newspaper articles, song lyrics and catchy advertisements, military communiqués and propaganda, even some of his own work from his days as a cub reporter. Behind this wealth of detail and the faithful portrait of a bygone era, another, quieter, story emerges. The story of a man who allows himself to be guided, in the search for the person he wants to be, by the person he already is. Fortunately for the reader that person—filled with honesty and optimism, with a native curiosity and tolerance, with an endless ability to marvel at the actions and achievements of others and the world around him, above all with an unwavering belief that, come what may, his is truly a life worth living—is also the teller of this tale.
Volume III: Home in the World
completes the trilogy. Home in the World joins Clark in Boston in the early 60s, as he assumes his post in the Department of English at Suffolk University. Through his inimitable mix of archival material and faultless recollection, Clark leads the reader on a journey spanning three decades, one which charts his transformation from eager Associate into beloved Professor and indefatigable champion of African American literature and belles lettres. Far more than a simple story of professional determination and achievement, Home in the World is also a love story, in which a straightforward-yet-worldly man of letters and a former Sister of Notre Dame de Namur somehow find their way to a life together. Through it all, Clark remains A Man From Ohio: humble, honest, passionate, and forever open to the strange and wonderful mystery of being alive.
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