When the West Virginia writer Scott McClanahan shows up somewhere to read his stories, he doesn’t just sell a couple of books—he wins acolytes. The inimitable reader and short-storysmith has been steadily building a loyal cult following on his way to literary stardom. In the meantime, you can catch him on Monday at the Franklin Park Reading Series. His latest book is Stories V!.
For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
That I’m a son of a bitch. At least that’s what my wife says. Hopefully our children think otherwise. There’s nothing different between work and life.
What have you read (or seen or heard or tasted or whatever) recently that will permanently change our readers’ lives for the better?
I just moved into a new apartment because of a divorce. My air conditioner froze up, and so I was waiting on the heat-pump guy to show up. I kept looking out the window every 10 minutes or so when I heard a car door shut. I heard a car door and I looked outside and saw three people pull up in front of my apartment. I was on the second floor so I could see into their car. I was about ready to turn away when I realized, “Did that guy just hand that woman a hypodermic needle?” The three people then proceeded to shoot up right in front of my apartment. I watched the pretty woman in the passenger seat lick the blood away from her arm. Then she shot everybody else up. This is the reality of living in this crap place now. Everybody is on oxy or cheap heroin or at least getting ready to be. You go outside now and it feels like you’re going to get murdered.
But to quote the Georg Buchner, “A good murder, a real murder, a beautiful murder—as good as a murder you’d ever want to see. We haven’t had one like this in a long time.” Maybe that’s what this place needs.
Whose ghostwritten celebrity tell-all would you sprint to the store to buy (along with a copy of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius so that the checkout clerk doesn’t look at you screwy)?
I actually love The Meditations. What people don’t realize is it was probably ghostwritten as well. It’s nothing more than a propaganda piece for the Stoics of Rome. Do you think Lyndon Johnson wrote his book? Or George W. Bush? I’m sure there was nothing different with the emperors of Rome. I think most celebrity tell-all biographies are probably better than the junk we call literature though. People who buy “respectable” books are fools and don’t understand they were probably the trash of the time in which they written.
Have you ever been a Starving Artist, and did it make you brilliant, or just hungry?
The starving artist is a crap myth. It’s something middle-class suburban kids tell themselves to pretend that mommy or daddy isn’t helping with their Brooklyn rent. People who are really starving could give a damn about starving. They’re just starving. They wind up in jail or in the streets. They just die from starving. Even Baudelaire had a trust fund. Most of the writers I meet just brag of their misery, yet they are nothing more than tourists. They’re just pretending to be poor. They can always go back home, or take a semester off finding themselves in Europe. Fuck that.
What would you characterize as an ideal interaction with a reader?
Have you ever written anything that you’d like to take back?
Never! Why would I write anything down if I didn’t believe in it with everything I am? Tourists write stuff down and then complain about it or are embarrassed by it years later. It just shows the words didn’t mean anything to them when they wrote them down in the first place.
Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart