Scott McClanahan is by far one of my favorite contemporary writers, and a good friend. I think Scott and I met in Chicago, or maybe it was Washington DC, around 2009. He’d already come to read for solar anus in Atlanta, the reading series that I help run along with Blake Butler and Amy McDaniel, but I’d had to be out of town at that reading, so I only caught a video of Scott reading one of his stories that got posted to Youtube.
I’d already read Stories I, which was out at that time, and I knew this guy was one hell of a storyteller, but goddamn. I didn’t know he could tell tell a story, too. And on this night at this reading in a smoky bar in some major American city I watched Scott deliver again, rapturing the audience–almost literally. He chanted like a preacher. He whispered. He played bagpipes from his cell phone. That night I don’t think we shook hands but hugged. I came up to him and Scott said, “Jamie!” and he gave me a hug in the middle of signing books and said, “Let’s hang in a minute.” But before I knew it, he had slipped out and away.
But, I’ve been fortunate to develop a strong email, Facebook, and (believe it or not) snail mail friendship with him since that meeting. I once posted about teaching the Ramayana and Scott messaged me, asking for my address. A few days later I received from him a paperback of more Indian poetry, along with a DVD of an Elvis special. A couple months later, I was thinking about that, and thinking about Scott, and I wanted to reciprocate. So I found this novel that, in itself, was nothing spectacular (it was Elizabeth Brundage’s The Doctor’s Wife), but it meant something to me while I was in the middle of trying to write my first novel. I learned a lot about handling different points of view. Anyway, what I’m trying to illustrate is that Scott never really knew me, nor I him, but Scott McClanahan is that kind of generous. He may be introverted, as is evident in the interview we conducted, but he invites you in. He’s magnetic. And it all comes out in his writing.
Scott started by publishing Stories I and Stories II, which were later collected as The Collected Works of Scott McClanahan. His most recent book is Crapalachia: A Biography of Place. His novel, Hill William, is forthcoming this fall. It’s not so much that he’s prolific; he’s writing all the time, and for long periods of time. He’s a craftsman, constantly rewriting and revising his stories. Eventually he bangs those stories out into the great work we’ve been reading from him since that beginning back in 2009. That constant work creates these tales that seem so easy to read, so simple, so conversational. And that’s their deception. There’s a whole lot going on.
I’m so glad to have Scott as a colleague and friend, and I’m so glad I’m able to share him and his writing here for you at Atticus Review.
In This Issue:
Hearing Voices: An Interview with Scott McClanahan
An Excerpt from The Sarah Book