Scott McClanahan's Never Coming Back to New York

10/31/2013 11:35 AM |

Scott McClanahan NYC KGB Bar Hill William
  • Samantha Vacca

“This should be good,” the dude who runs Tyrant Books said before Scott McClanahan took the stage last night at the launch for his new book Hill William at KGB Bar. And he wasn’t wrong—the reading was so good even McClanahan was in tears by its end, embracing his publisher before stealing away to a corner. He read the part of the book about his anger problem, its comedy barely masking its profound sadness: about breaking a chair and kicking a hole in the wall, alternately fighting with and apologizing to his worried girlfriend. He also mentioned stomping on a CD player, which I didn’t remember from the book.

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He happened to have two CD players, boomboxes, with him, which he lined up on the bar. McClanahan often incorporates music into his readings, so it wasn’t unusual when he cued up Donovan’s “Atlantis” and talked over it. (He fumbled through his printed-out pages for a minute, repeating “pray for me,” until he shouted, “gimme a book!” and the audience passed a copy forward for him to read from. He told me later this was on purpose.) But then he lifted the boombox and placed it on the floor and stomped it with his foot, silencing immediately both Donovan and the rapt, stunned audience.

He started the song on the other boombox so it could continue, illustrating what he was saying about how breaking things doesn’t make them stronger—it just makes them broke. “Should I break it?” he asked the audience about the second boombox. “No. I’m tired of breaking things.” He ended by holding up a cheap-looking mirror in front of audience members, telling us if we saw these faces again in 10 or 20 years, he’d tell us they were ghosts. “This is an $8 mirror I bought in Manhattan,” he said. “It doesn’t look like an $8 mirror.”

Afterward, outside on the steps next to the bar, I asked him if it was true that, after this visit, he was never coming back to New York. “Yeah,” he said.
“Yeah,” his girlfriend agreed.
“This is my last hurrah.”

Seeing Scott read is a one-of-a-kind experience. I can’t stress enough that you should catch his reading at Franklin Park on November 11, because it might just be your last chance, and you don’t want to have to regret that for the rest of your life.

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart