Caleb J. Ross' booklikes

The official booklikes blog of author Caleb J. Ross.


Stories - Scott McClanahan (this review originally appeared at OutsiderWriters [dot:] org)Simply titled, Stories, Scott McClanahan’s collection intentionally disregards enough structural, grammatical, and formatting rules on the first page alone to challenge most readers’ dedication. The collection not only discounts the understood importance of a descriptive title, but also adopts irregular paragraph formatting, a few misspellings, and a lack of page numbers or table of contents. But in a respectable adherence to the story form, Stories is just that in the best sense of the word: stories.Taking its lack of compromise from the world of personal journals and oral folklore, Stories places a hyper-focus on the fundamental delivery and purpose of a story, exchanging linguistic flair for simple, campfire-styled narrative, and swapping convoluted plot for a poetic sense of ultimate justification. Sentiment and emotion are conveyed beautifully by way of just enough style guidelines to keep the pages from drifting away entirely into the oral traditions from which this collection takes its influence.The collection enlists a narrator, often soft-spoken, always riding a fine line between innocent child and weathered old man in that he speaks in alternating beats of onomatopoeic EEEEEKKKKs and buzzzzs and good ol’ boy simplicity (“…wearing this ratty ol gray coat that he always wore” pg 31*). Yet this delivery always produces a ending of well stitched optimism. “ODB, The Mud Puppy, and Me,” for example, depicts a roadway encounter with a deer that builds to a slapstick, yet endearing struggle to put the animal out of its misery, culminating in the question “…is this what you called kindness…” (pg 22*).This simple narration builds from one story to another, allowing each subsequent story to be approached with an implied history, similar to bound journal. “The Phone Girl” works because “Possums” works because “The Prettiest Girl in Texas” works and so on. It takes a brave author to willingly risk a dull-witted perception for the sake of conscientious style. As McClanahan has said in a recent interview with OrangeAlert, “the worst thing a storyteller can do is start thinking like an intellectual.” But the best thing a storyteller can do is to allow his intellect to organically permeate his words, which is just what Stories accomplishes.* remember, this collection doesn’t have page numbers. You’ll have to count (as I did) to find these quotes