Scott McClanahan’s “Crapalachia”

June 14, 2013 by Greg Moore

In this author-provided photo, Scott McClanahan reads from “Crapalachia” in New York.

The people Scott McClanahan writes about probably wouldn’t read his new book.

“These people don’t read literary fiction,” McClanahan said in a recent interview with the Gazette’s Bill Lynch. “They might read the Gazette. … Maybe.”

That’s all right, because plenty of other people are reading Scott McClanahan’s book. He’s gotten a write-up in The New York Times, where Allison Glock calls his writing “miasmic, dizzying, repetitive” and says that trying to slow it down “would be like putting a doorstop in front of a speeding train.” He got excerpted in the Oxford American. In The Washington Post, Steve Donoghue compares him to Daniel Woodrell and Tom Franklin, which is pretty lofty company. Donoghue writes that “Crapalachia: A Biography of Place” — that’s McClanahan’s sort-of memoir about growing up in southern West Virginia — is “intelligent, atmospheric, raucously funny and utterly wrenching.”

The two largest figures in the book are McClanahan’s cerebral palsy-stricken Uncle Nathan and bigger-than-life Grandma Ruby, who knows death comes for her just like it comes for everyone else, and doesn’t find that frightening in the least. As Glock writes, “McClanahan describes how his grandmother Ruby would manifest a ‘look on her face like something terrible was going to happen to all of us one day. And you know what? It will . . . if not tonight, then the next night.'”

McClanahan, a Beckley resident who grew up in Greenbrier County, got degrees from Concord and Marshall and now teaches at New River Community College. He told Lynch that he doesn’t quite know what to make of all the attention over his book. “They’re always mentioning my accent in interviews,” he said.

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