The recent publication of Exley: A Novel (Algonquin Books, 2010) by Brock Clarke ’98 (PhD) brings fresh attention to the Frederick Exley Papers held in the library’s Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation. A Watertown, N.Y., native, Exley (1929–92) is best known for his 1968 novel, A Fan’s Notes, which has become a cult classic. Clarke, an associate professor of English at Bowdoin College, tells the story of a boy who searches for Exley in a quest to reconnect with his father. He consulted the Rochester archive in drafting his fifth novel, reading Exley’s letters and listening to several recorded interviews with the author.
“These last were especially valuable, in that they gave me a sense of Exley’s speaking voice, which both played off of and contrasted with his narrative voice,” Clarke says. “I don’t know if I could have written the novel without the help of the Exley archive. But more importantly, the archive does a huge service to those interested in this important, talented, contradictory, sometimes infuriating, sometimes inspiring American author.”