Considered a rising star of American literature – and rightly so – Scott McClanahan offers the story of serial shipwrecks in his new novel, Sarah’s book. As funny as it is touching, moving, authentic, this novel features Scott, who tells the story of the failure of his marriage to Sarah, the mother of his two children, but also his life which swirls down in a lost country of the Appalachians.
Scott McClanahan features a character called Scott McClanahan … who is also the narrator of this caustic social portrait, of great sincerity, where humor is at the rendezvous. The Scott of the novel is hardly encouraging: notorious alcoholic, self-destructive, paranoid around the edges. He tries to rebuild his life, starting by settling in a parking lot at Walmart.
The real Scott McClanahan, talented writer, musician in his spare time, speaks with humor about this autofiction where he had fun making his imagination sail alongside reality, giving it an inimitable tone.
Speak to “I”
“I’m trying to do something different, that comes out of the stereotypes of stories told in the first person. It is sometimes said that rock ‘n’ roll is for teens and bluegrass music is for adults, where someone tells us a story, from a more personal perspective. It reaches me.
“I had wanted to tell a story in the first person for years and years,” he explains. He is also a fervent admirer of the style of the French writer and memorialist Chateaubriand.
“Scott, in the book, is a created person. I am not really that person. This is perhaps one of the biggest difficulties when writing in the first person: it is difficult to get the tone right. Finding the right balance in writing Sarah’s book is what was difficult. ”
He thinks some readers can imagine he really described his life. “It happened with my other book, Crapalachia. I received letters from Swedish readers, and from French readers, who thought I was a fragile young author describing a family of weirdos. In fact, I am a bookworm, a big lover of literature, and a bit hillbilly on the edges … and I love my mom. “
Scott McClanahan was inspired by a short story written around 2008 to set this novel in motion. “I worked on this book for years… and it wasn’t going anywhere. Then I divorced. And the book has changed. I wrote a first version, and the publisher hated it. I returned to my work table. ”
Scott’s crumbling universe, in the book, and his common sense thoughts are derived from the life of the author, who however did not squat a parking lot at Walmart, he says. “There are some real things, but I pushed them, exaggerated. I wanted the tone to stay alive, as if I was telling my friends what had happened. And in the same way, exaggerate a little what happened to make my friends laugh. ”
♦ Scott McClanahan has written several short stories, including Crapalachia, published in 2018.
♦ He lives in Berkeley, West Virginia, where he teaches English literature at a community college.