Tag Archives: Scott McClanahan

Indie Lit Classics: Every Good Thing We Have Ever Said About Scott McClanahan

7 Nov

Scott McClanahan

 

We’ve never done a post like this before, but dammit, we are MOTIVATED.

We’ve been singing Scott McClanahan’s praises for as long as we can remember. In fact, we’ve posted about his work so many times at Vouched that we’ve decided to round them all up. If anyone deserves a permanent place in Small Press Lit’s literary canon, it’s Mr. McClanahan. (So we’re printing this picture and hanging it above our metaphorical mantle, so to speak).

Dig it?

Our joint review with Sundog Lit of Crapalachia and Layne’s take on it, too.

Our Single-sentence review of The Collected Works of Scott McClanahan.

Stories V!

He made it on three contributors‘ ‘Best Of’ Lists. THREE!

He read for us in Indianapolis.

New York Tyrant 11.

Kitty Snacks #4.

One more thing about Stories V!

See Scott at the Letters Festival!

New Love: The Letters Festival

5 Nov

The Letters Festival

Something grand is about to descend upon Atlanta. Something. Damn. Grand.

It’s the Letters Festival.

Focusing on supporting and spreading the [good] word about small press literature (*swoon*), on November 14th-16th the Letters Festival will be hosting series of readings, workshops, author talks and other dreamy things in Atlanta. Their line-up will make you salivate: Jericho Brown, Mary Miller, Roxane Gay, Scott McClanahan, Blake Butler, & Matt DeBenedictis, to name a few

Obviously we, the people of Vouched, are über pumped about this and want you to be too! So over the next few weeks we will be doing everything in our power to drum up the excitement and anticipation in your little hearts.

Why?

BECAUSE [WE LIVE LIFE IN CAPSLOCK AND] THIS IS AWESOME.

Learn more about the organizers of the Letters Festival here. Checkout their indiegogo campaign and then donate to them here. Then follow them on every social media platform. Do it!

Crapalachia by Scott McClanahan

29 Apr

We really just can’t get our fill of Scott McClanahan. You recall Layne’s review here at Vouched. I’ve got my own spin on the book up at Sundog Literature:

Crapalachia
Scott McClanahan
Two Dollar Radio
192p./$16

“Scott McClanahan is not fearful. He does not live in the shadow of death or shy away from the hazards of poverty. Sickness, mistakes, his origins, his past, his flawed memory — he does not yield to their threats. He takes them by the horns and gives them a bear hug. Crapalachia is a book that takes guts. It takes guts to have written it. It takes guts to read.” 

Read the rest at Sundog Literature.

Crapalachia by Scott McClanahan

28 Mar

At AWP last year I heard Scott McClanahan’s name and him reading for the first time. It was biblical. I talked about that here.

This year at AWP I saw Scott read again and after he was done, in the black and dirty gold haze of a basement bar he handed me this:
 crapalachia
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He swirled into the crowd after without comment, though I found him again and thanked him for the book. I’m sorry if I took away from the lovely quietness of how you gave me the book, Scott. I just don’t do well without saying Thank You, though you shouldn’t doubt this is a thank you as well.
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I saw scraps of what others have said about Crapalachia before reading it, which pretty much all said *This is about death* and yes, so much so. I’m introduced to Uncle Nathan then he dies. I’m introduced to Grandma Ruby then she dies. I’m introduced to Mrs. Powell and the girl in the pink dress and her mother and they all die, and so do Rhonda and Bill and Naked Joe but not where they need a grave. They fade out, or are cut out, from what happens, though we know they’ll need a grave sooner or later.
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And it’s not just the sadness or dirtiness of death, but also when it’s hilarious, when we try to overload it with meaning how it can flip us the bird:
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………“We’ll now release a dove which is a symbolic representation of Ruby’s soul flying home to heaven.”
………And so they opened up the bird box and nothing happened.
………We waited.
………And then this sleepy-looking dove just crawled out, except it didn’t even look like a dove really but just a fat pigeon that somebody had painted white.
………It had a look on its face like, What the fuck? Seriously, people. What the fuck? It’s way too old to be doing this today.
………So the Wallace and Wallace guy tried to shoo it but it wouldn’t shoo.
………So the preacher repeated:  “We’ll now release the dove.”
………The Wallace and Wallace guy shooed it again. Finally the dove shot high up into the air and out and over our heads, but instead of flying away it just landed on top of this chain-linked fence. And so the Wallace and Wallace guy tried shooting it again and everyone giggled and gathered around in a circle throwing up their arms and shouting “shoo-shoo” at the bird high above. I shouted, “Shoo.” We were all shooing.
………But it wouldn’t shoo.
………And so it was.
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Along with death Crapalachia doesn’t let you forget what it is to be poor. How Scott writes about Danese, West Virginia reads like a love letter to  living and feeling in a place designated by everywhere else to be a place to use poor people to get done what you don’t want to do, take risks you don’t want to take. There’s a beauty lacking all bullshit in loving these places without patronization.
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……….Then we read about how you build civilization. They built the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel by digging a big ass hole in the side of a mountain.  They used a bunch of poor people to dig it.  A poor person means either their skin was dark or their accents were thick.  That’s the best way to do anything–get a bunch of poor people to dig it. So they cut and cut into the mountain but there was a problem. They didn’t wet the dust from the cut limestone–so the men developed silicosis. The men started dying by the tens and then the twenties and then the hundreds and then–the thousands? Since they were poor the company just buried them. There was an investigation a few years later but no one cared. They were poor people.
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More history lessons about mine explosions and failed efforts at economic fairness in West Virginia punctuate the story, make sure you remember how little poor people seem to be given a shit about except to each other. The book is subtitled “a Biography of a Place” and Scott is forthcoming with West Virginian pockmarks and their origins, blemishes that seem unfairly inflicted rather than earned.
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Vital here is repetition of a biblical kind and degree. Who begat who begat who and us, right now, squished between begats and soon a dead name in a Deuteronomy being constantly revised and updated. And there are beautiful, prophetic exhortations beside piles of dogshit and mine explosions and photo albums of dead people, all the gross truth of lives that end.
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Toward the book’s conclusion, Scott talks about a flood resulting from a dam break that plowed through Buffalo Creek, West Virginia in 1972. The flood kills 125 people and afterward it’s not like anybody gets to start all over, like God could do jack shit to clean even this tiny part of the earth. Men still have to pull up the little girl in the pink dress buried in the mud and her mother’s corpse sitting under a tree, mouth filled with sand. And Scott’s last holy plea to us is not to forget and start over, but remember the names of the loved, with all the mud and sweetness and misery and they drag along behind them.
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Get Crapalachia here.

An Unruly Collage of Strange and Intense Emotions, or Best Ofs For 2012

27 Dec

If I remember right, I saw Scott McClanahan give this performance after Abby Koski got me wasted on rum and Cokes then introduced me to Matt Siegel, and I had no idea what to do.  Or where anyone was.

I didn’t think, “Hey, where are all the people I know” until after.

You can tell I’m happiest not when I smile but slapped into dumb stunned awe like I was watching Scott bark his generations, a latter-day prophet too made of thunder and dirt-real truth for any church, so boiling over with harsh and angelic vision, soothing my frayed thoughts while setting the room ablaze.

I’m sorry, but I’m just not a cheerleader; I’m a lower-tier saint.

This was probably my best moment in the Beauty Bar at AWP 2012, followed closely by drunk hugs from Brian Oliu and laughs with a few others but roundly defeating some other interactions, Hellos I didn’t want to say, Nice to Meet Yous that felt everything but.  Again, some unraveling.  Basic kindness can appear to us as an unblemished lamb, so we take up our knives.

*   *   *

There is a place I go to read and write when I need to recalibrate and push off the stupid shimmery idea of being a writer or an indie lit writer so I can just do the thing without all the shit.  Two people know where that is.  Both of their names start with A.

I took Matt Bell’s Cataclysm Baby there during the ugliest time of year, when winter is worn out and spring is all, “Whatever, be there in a sec,” when I’m sick of wearing scarves.

I could barely hold a fork, knocked slack-jawed by Baby’s rapacious beauty.  I found myself mouthing the last story, “Zachary, Zahir, Zedekiah,” a real electric rush that swells like Explosions in the Sky, incanting

And then every morning, some new and constant sun, born upon the horizon.

and almost crying in my booth.  I paid, left, and stared at the iron atmosphere too much for safety as I drove.

*   *   *

The cover of Nick Sturm’s chapbook, “WHAT A TREMENDOUS TIME WE’RE HAVING!” with its birthday party horses is the perfect graphic representation of a genuine smile, which seems like the kind of person Nick is (Nick Sturm: A Genuine Smile) and the requisite spirit embodied in that joyous little book.

I remember for a while keeping it in the passenger’s side interior door pocket to show to anyone I gave a ride.  It seems like there are about three people at any given time who are riding in my car regularly, so my evangelism wasn’t far-flung but lacked no enthusiasm.  I generally showed my passengers the poem that ends

                                    …My spirit animal is a bear

with a confetti cannon strapped to its back

The point is to surprise you & then maul you

into pieces of joy

and thank goodness, no one ever said they didn’t understand why.

*   *   *

For some reason I read Matt Hart’s Sermons and Lectures Both Blank and Relentless a lot while giving plasma this spring, squeezing myself through a needle with one hand and holding the book with another.  Listening to Jimmy Eat World, Lovedrug, The Smashing Pumpkins, that helped too, to distract from the displaced queasiness that got better little by little but never went entirely away.

It makes sense that his poems helped the same way; the direct mention of Sunny Day Real Estate aside, the upfront guitar fuzz and gorgeous thrash of them calmed and exhilarated.  Every appointment I had a half hour to imagine where else I could be besides Muncie in February, March, April, still slushed and gray.  It felt holy, an internal push toward whatever better places there were to be.

*   *   *

Brian Oliu’s Level End is the first book I’ve ever delayed reading to intentionally take time to absorb its packaging.  I couldn’t stop just looking at the thing, turning it over and getting happier with every detail from a childhood and adolescence spent on four generations of Nintendo consoles, starting with the NES, a game for which the book’s design was modeled after.

When I finally did get to reading the thing the effect was much the same, a combined joy and relief that someone understood so well the real emotional tug 8-bit worlds have on us whose first big adventures included finding the Master Sword and discovering gold-littered shortcuts in the clouds above danger.  And rendered it so truly in its surreal beauty and sincerity; all nerd jokes aside, sitting in front of a pixel-laden TV screen with my big brother, defeating all number of monsters and villains, is one of the most loaded and precious memories I have.

*   *   *

I remember texting

I AM THE OCEAN, I AM THE BROKEN ATMOSPHERE BEING HEALED

to Chris Newgent as soon as I read it, and immediately claimed it in a tiny yet steady fashion for my own near future:  a beach, a flock of friends, an ocean, a slew of present moments far from Indiana.  I read the rest of Thomas Patrick Levy’s I Don’t Mind If You’re Feeling Alone with a similar hyper-focused sprint, or as a binge, on the couch in my beige and tan apartment and sunk into myself with relief, consuming its color and breathlessness.

*   *   *

There’s a modest handful of books that wind themselves around the edge of my thoughts almost constantly. I think this is in part a residual effect of being an expatriate of Christianity that took the idea of being in constant prayer deeply to heart:  once the verses about no hope for men outside of Yahweh and his son were discarded from whatever walled garden in me they occupied, there was left a decade’s worth of empty earth.

Ben Kopel’s VICTORY is one of those few books that immediately took root in me.  Fragments of it run through my head throughout the day, quiet meditations on how to stay vital and honest and brave.  This book was the first thing I wrote about for Vouched and it remains one of my favorite, most dearly loved books of poetry or anything else.  When I read it I feel like the first time I realized that wet pavement under streetlight is beautiful.  I feel fifteen, riding with my brother in his Explorer through cornfields at night, summer, hands out the windows, brushing fingertips with fireflies.

I could not tell you what my favorite poem is from the book, but there is one part from the poem “Because We Must” that heartbeats through my thoughts almost daily:

A prayer, now

& at the hour of our death—

Fill me with yr light inside this car.

Fill me with yr light.

*   *   *

Yesterday, Christmas, after my family ate a lot of things then opened a lot of things and then said even more things, I continued reading Sal Pane’s novel Last Call in the City of Bridges.  I get embarrassed with how often the book describes my own tendencies and identity:  self-doubt alongside a sense of superiority, a feeling of specialness bred in part by constant consumption of heroic narratives growing up, strong attachment to video games and college memories, yet another member of a generation that was told by parents and teachers to get good grades or else we’d have to work at McDonald’s then was chastised by parents and teachers for thinking we were too good to work at McDonald’s.  The accuracy is painful.

I’m only halfway through so I can give you no conclusions, other than to state that I’m curious to see what direction a story about the directionless will take, and that reading will take me into 2013, heading in one of many possible directions.

Vouched Presents: a Literary Powerhouse

29 Aug

This reading really got out of hand fast. What started out as a simple “book release party for Amber Sparks”/”welcome to Indy for Sal Pane” escalated into an all out literary brawl with the addition of Lania Knight, and the REAL PAIN: FUTURE DEAD FRIENDS TOUR 2012 making a stop with Scott McClanahan, Sam Pink, Megan Boyle, Jordan Castro, and Mallory Whitten. This line-up could generate electricity for a small city.

Join us at the new Indy Reads Books store at the very north end of Mass Ave., and pack your brain full of words and moments you won’t want to forget. And, maybe some you’ll want to forget. Let’s be honest. Nights like these have a way of breeding regrets alongside remembrances.

RSVP at Facebook.

SSR #15 of 15: The Collected Works of Scott McClanahan Vol. 1

17 Jul

Before I get to my single sentence review, I would like to say a few things. First,  doing this series of single-sentence reviews has been a joy, and hopefully our readers liked them too.

Secondly, Scott McClanahan, the subject of this SSR, happens to be reading tonight in Atlanta for the Solar Anus reading series at Beep Beep Gallery along-side the lovely ladies of the Southern Comfort Book Tour. If you are in the area, it would be really great if you would join us, because it’s going to be a tremendous time.

Last reminder: the Very Vouched Birthday party will take place tomorrow evening, Wednesday, July, 18th, at the Goatfarm at 7pm. Hope to see you there!

The Collected Works of Scott McClanahan, Vol. 1
by Scott McClanahan
Lazy Fascist Press
132p, $10.95

The American South and all of its absurd calamity has been bound in these pages–volatile and jocular, hopeful but quick to throw a punch.

Stories V! by Scott McClanahan

16 Apr

Scott McClanahan STORIES V! Book Trailer 2 from Holler Presents on Vimeo.

Don’t worry there was not a Stories IV. And don’t worry if you haven’t read Stories or Stories II. But after reading Stories V! you may want to pick those up. Because this was my first intro to McClanahan, but I was floored and I read this so fast & quick, and those twists — I never ever saw them coming. You will be disarmed, then surprised and then you will tattoo yourself with invisible ink. Which is good.