“Sarah’s Book” by Scott McClanahan: Losing Yourself Deep in the Appalachians

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 his failed marriage to Sarah, the mother of his two children, but also of his life swirling down in a lost Appalachian country.

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 in the novel is hardly encouraging: a notorious alcoholic, self-destructive, paranoid around the edges. He’s trying 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 is outside the stereotypes of stories told in the first person. It is sometimes said that rock’nroll is for teens and bluegrass music is for adults, where someone tells us a story, on a more personal level. 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 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 around 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 was going nowhere. Then I got divorced. And the book has changed. I wrote a first draft, 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 author’s life, although he did not squat in a parking lot at Walmart, he says. “There are some real things, but I pushed them, exaggerated them. I wanted the tone to stay alive, as if I was telling my friends what happened. And likewise, exaggerate a bit of 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.

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