Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ted McClelland

Edward Robert McClelland is the author of Horseplayers: Life at the Track, a memoir of a year spent at the races.

In February 2008 Chicago Review Press will publish his The Third Coast: Sailors, Strippers, Fishermen, Folksingers, Long-Haired Ojibway Painters and God-Save-the-Queen Monarchists of the Great Lakes.

Last week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I just finished reading Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie. I picked it up after reading Alexie’s thin new novel Flight, because I figured, “He’s got to be better than that.” Boy, is he. Reservation Blues, the story of three young Indians who start a band after Robert Johnson shows up on their reservation with a guitar, is satirical, whimsical, magical and touching all at once. And, for de-ethnicized Americans, it provides a lot of insight into the importance of tribal and blood ties. The first book I ever wrote was about a rock band. It was never published. Reservation Blues is the novel I was trying to write. Sherman Alexie did it much better.

I also just re-read Duel In The Sun, an account of the 1982 Boston Marathon, which came down to a two-man race between Alberto Salazar, then the world’s best marathoner, and Dick Beardsley, a little-known farm boy from Minnesota. It was the greatest race ever between two American distance runners, but the strain of the effort ruined the careers of both men, as author John Brant details. I joined my high-school cross-country team in 1982, and remember reading about the race in the running magazines, drawing inspiration from the runners’ bravery. It was the zenith not just of those two runners’ careers, but of American distance running. No American man has won a major marathon since 1983. The book is also an inspiration because I’m training for a marathon next spring. (I won’t be breaking the aforementioned dry spell.)

Also, I have a lot of military history on my desk. For enjoyment, Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour. I’ve always wondered what happened the moment World War I ended. Joseph E. Persico did, too, and wrote a book about it. Amazingly, many of the combatants kept fighting until the last minute, even though the armistice had been signed hours before. The final American casualty, Pvt. Henry Gunther, charged a German machine gun at 10:59 a.m., even as his sergeant urged him to keep his head down. For work, I’m reading memoirs and diaries of War of 1812 soldiers, research for a book I’m planning to write on that conflict, which is approaching its bicentennial, and which was fought mostly around the Great Lakes.
Learn more about TedMcCelland and his writing.

The Page 99 Test: Horseplayers: Life at the Track.

--Marshal Zeringue