Few exceptions aside, the most compelling, challenging, absorbing literary art is being produced by small presses and their respective writers. I asked a number of writers, editors, and publishers to send me a list of small press books to look out for in 2016. Below you’ll find my own list, which is informed by Kate Angus, John Cayley, Lauren Cerand, Samuel R. Delany, Rikki Ducornet, Andrew Ervin, Lily Hoang, Sean Lovelace, Scott McClanahan, Hubert O’Hearn, Jane Unrue, and Curtis White.
Below you’ll also find lists from Jeff Bursey, Tobias Carroll, Gabino Iglesias, Janice Lee, Dawn Raffel, Nick Francis Potter, John Reed, Adam Robinson, Michael Seidlinger, Terese Svoboda, Jason Teal, Angela Woodward, and Jacob Wren. All the abovementioned people are small press heroes and great writers in their own right. My thanks to all of them.
Mel Bosworth reads “The Chainsaw Guy,” by Scott McClanahan.
Scott McClanahan is the author of Stories and the newly released Stories 2, which I discussed HERE. He lives in West Virginia. These are questions I asked and he answered.
RWB: First of all, Scott, thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview. It’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to talk with you about your work. There was discussion recently on Big Other, from a post by Shya Scanlon [read it HERE], about using one’s self as a character, something you do in both Stories and Stories 2. While some writers such as Neal Pollack do this with a more absurdist bent, the other reason that is often assumed, I think, is that it’s due to the autobiographical nature of the work in question. While I suppose it would be easy to assume the latter is true with your work, I am interested to hear how you decided to use yourself as a character. Is it a choice that just came naturally given the material?
SM: Actually, it’s a total misconception that I’m writing about myself. I actually grew up with a kid who lived close by and his name was Scott McClanahan too. I know it’s a strange coincidence, but what’s even more interesting is he ended up marrying a woman named Sarah many years later. So yeah it’s weird, but I just write stories from his point of view really. If he ever moves away though, I’m going to be totally screwed.
But REALLY, I could try to analyze why I “decided” to use myself as a character, but it’s just not something that interests me. I think you get hungry because you get hungry. Stories used to be linked to fertility cults in the ancient world. I think this should still be true. Writing should lead to pregnancy, not discussion.
I just finished reading Scott McClanahan’s new collection, Stories 2. This is the kind of book that gets me amped. Well, there are a lot of books of all different styles that get me amped. But, you know.
McClanahan’s stories are descendents of Bukowski. The character “Scott McClanahan” is maybe Chianski’s cousin, stuck back in West Virginia, making it through the day, every day and more. But where Chianski was boozing and looking for women and bitching and doing it all again, McClanahan is looking at the people around him. He’s surveying the small town, and the lives within it. He’s sizing up loneliness and he’s not trying to break it, he’s trying to expose it. He’s opening that loneliness up and sucking everyone who reads his accounts right in there with the rest of West Virginia.