Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Scott McClanahan


Back at the end of January, I saw a post on Dennis Cooper's blog about a book called Stories II by a writer named Scott McClanahan. It sounded like a book I would really like and I made a mental note to grab it. Then, somehow, thankfully, Scott wrote me out of nowhere and sent me a copy of the book. So I got it last week, read it, and was amazed. I was so moved by the stories, felt a kind of electric appreciation for the world, or the world which Scott created in his stories. It made me want to cry a lot without totally understanding why.
Right after I finished the book, I ordered his first book, Stories, and I just got finished reading it and it did all those same things to me, but even more intensely. I love these two books so much. I'll try, though I won't do a good job, to explain why.
There is a simplicity to the writing that feels very much like traditional storytelling, like a conversation, the easy way the character allows you to come into his life for a little while to hear what he wants you to hear. Despite the humor, which sneaks up on you and floors you, the stories are bleak; almost all of them are set in West Virginia and the propects for most of the characters in the stories are not good. There is sadness everywhere in these stories. And what I'm going to say next is why I think I love these stories so much. Amidst the sadness, the ways in which everyone fails each other, there is such an amazing tenderness that lifts these stories up. I felt very tightly connected to these characters and was grateful for having been around their stories, because, even as awful things were happening, and sometimes they were totally responsible for the awful things, I felt like I understood them so clearly. Scott knows about ruined landscapes and he knows the people who inhabit these places intimately. And his love for these people, for these places, as complicated as it might be, did something magical to me.
I am not being very clear, I'm afraid. What I can say is that these stories are wonderful and I can't wait to read every single thing that Scott McClanahan writes from here on out. There are so many memorable lines, so many memorable images, that I can't stop thinking about the stories and wishing I had made them.

6 comments:

K. Wilson said...

In regards to the tenderness that I was talking about, there's one story where a really lonely guy in his early 20's forms a relationship with a stranger, a woman, who randomly called his number and started moaning. She calls back several times and eventually they start to talk about their lives and begin to fall in love with each other. When the narrator writes a letter to her, he decides he needs a picture to include with it, and so he goes to his parents' house and asks his mom to take a picture of him with his shirt off. This is wonderful and beautiful and makes your heart break a little.

Molly Gaudry said...

Scott reminds me of Brautigan and Sherwood Anderson. I think someone else brought up Anderson and I agreed and haven't been able to get that out of my head. But the Brautigan comparison is mine. :)

pb said...

http://htmlgiant.com/book-reviews/stories-by-scott-mcclanahan/

K. Wilson said...

Hey, Molly, I can get with the Sherwood Anderson comparison, for sure. I haven't read enough Brautigan to see the connection (I've read almost no Brautigan), but I'm interested now. It's not just the singular location that links something like Winesburg, Ohio to Stories I and II, it's the way in which you can see the care with which the author treats his characters, despite how "grotesque" they might initially seem.

And, pb, oh man, we are on the same page. That's a wonderful review, much better than what I was trying to say, but it was what I was trying to say. And that story about the Prettiest Woman in Texas is fantastic. That one really floored me.

pb said...

Kevin, I'm glad you liked my review - we are so on the same page about Scott! He's magnificent.

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