Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#182 The Myth of Scott McClanahan

Scott McClanahan was born in West Virginia and regularly used the bathroom in a johnny house (johnny houses have been a seminal event in many writers lives, including Jean Genet). Scott’s childhood was spent in Rainelle, West Virginia—a town full of lumberjacks, severed arms, coal miners, and old mountains. The town specializes in teenage pregnancy and prescription drug abuse. When Scott was five, he watched some older boys set a forest on fire, which the West Virginia National Guard had to put out. When Scott was 7, his grandmother Ruby had her gallstones removed, then brought all 15 of them home and asked Scott to put them in her flowerbed. During the blizzard of ’93, Scott started writing. Scott’s teenage years were spent reading Isak Dinesen and watching professional wrestling. He will not rest until Ric Flair is recognized as a great artist by this culture. In high school, he played quarterback, which is how he ended up with a compound fracture of his left arm. In college, Scott’s roommate was a great friend from Rainelle who suffered from OCD, which meant that he also always kept the room clean. Scott worked at the same grocery store his father did and was a substitute teacher at the same school where his mother taught. It was for 7 years that Scott chased a woman named Sarah before she went out on a real date with him, but now they are married. Sarah is a nurse and each night he sits and listens to her talk about patients dying, the way eyes look when the last moment of oxygen is escaping from a brain. Sarah has a magnificent heart and Scott will fight the man who doesn’t believe in true love (seriously, send him your address and he’ll come fight you). Scott cries every other day over something, which he considers a good thing. A couple of months ago, Sarah brought home a 13-year-old blind dog. Now Scott goes home each day and watches it bump from wall to wall. The blind dog has become a metaphor for Scott’s life and Scott is training his other dog to become a seeing-eye dog. Now Scott lives in southern West Virginia, an hour from where he grew up. He has stayed because it's one of the last places with myths (John Henry is from there). Scott does not plan for the future if it can be avoided—he understands that within 3 months the shroud could be his garment—but he knows that he will be buried on Backus Mountain. And he wants “I regret” written on his tombstone—along with “I told you I was sick.”

[Update: Scott McClanahan's second book, Stories II, is just out from Six Gallery Press. There is a nice write-up of it by Sam Pink at HTMLGIANT. This is Scott's first book, Stories.]
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Everyday Genius & Andy Devine

I'm guest-editing Everyday Genius for the month of August. Everyday Genius is the curious magazine arm of Adam Robinson's Publishing Genius Press. Today is Amelia Gray Day. Yesterday was a Sam Pinkism. Tomorrow and the next day and the next will be bits of genius from Ingrid Burrington, Aaron Burch, and Tria Andrews. The coming weeks will be filled with Kim Chinquee, Blake Butler, and the mysterious Andy Devine (speaking of, there's an incredible interview with Andy Devine at elimae; the brilliant Josh Maday asks the great questions).
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