Ed McClanahan and Gurney Norman were inducted into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame on Wednesday night, and each kept the crowd laughing with a reading from his humorous stories.
They were the last of the “Fab Five” Kentucky writers, who in the 1950s and 1960s studied as Wallace Stegner Fellows at Stanford University, to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Wendell Berry and Bobbie Ann Mason were added in 2015 and 2016. James Baker Hall (1935-2009) joined in 2014.
Also inducted this year were four deceased writers: mystery novelist Sue Grafton of Louisville (1940-2017); poet Jane Gentry Vance of Lexington (1941-2014); Helen Thomas of Winchester (1920-2013), the longtime White House Correspondent for United Press International; and Alice Allison Dunnigan of Russellville (1906-1983), the first black woman journalist ever accredited to cover Congress and the White House.
Norman’s novel “Divine Right’s Trip,” about hippies who move from California to Eastern Kentucky, was serialized in The Last Whole Earth Catalog, the counterculture bible. His other books include “Kinfolks: The Wilgus Stories,” and “Ancient Creek: A Folktale.” He has taught English at the University of Kentucky since 1979.
McClanahan, who taught English at UK, Northern Kentucky University and in Oregon and Montana, is best known for his funny coming-of-age novel, “The Natural Man” and book of stories, “Famous People I have Known.”
The Hall of Fame is sponsored by the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning, which is housed in the old Lexington Public Library building in Gratz Park. The annual ceremony always packs the building, so this year it was moved to the Kentucky Theatre.
The Hall of Fame recognizes outstanding writers from the present and past who were born in Kentucky or did most of their work in the state.