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Publishers WeeklyIn this absorbing collection of essays originally published in 1991, Cornell literature professor McClane muses deeply on issues of identity, race, family, and academia. The Harlem-born son of a doctor and a painter, McClane was the second African-American student ever to attend Manhattan's prestigious Collegiate School. The collection's title resonates with his essay about reading poetry at a prison: "As any jailer knows, the walls of the present are always dismantled in the future; but if there is no future... then the present becomes the almighty, and the walls become unconquerable." Walls is a heady volume; McClane is foremost a poet, and his essays carry the reverberant weight of poetry, demanding a careful read. Moreover, he peppers his prose with esoteric references to James Baldwin, Chekhov, Kafka, and others, lending these essays an academic air. He claims that the loss of his brother to alcoholism pervades each tale, yet the pieces on his mentally-disabled sister or his difficult time at Collegiate carry equal emotional weight.
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