The Best Fiction I Read Last Year: On Scott McClanahan’s “Stories II”

(A Letter from the Reviewer to the Author on 12/30/2010, used with Author’s permission)

Dear Scott,

You sent me your book, Stories II, a long time ago. I found the
unopened package hidden in a haphazard pile in my room at my parent’s
house on Monday and started reading it. I just finished it. I’ve been
reading a lot of books and writing in general by living authors and
this is the best stuff I’ve read yet. I read the first four stories
not wanting to stop, realizing I’d found something I like, something
human, tangible, real, something that moves, a voice I can hear saying
things I can listen to and constructing images I can feel. It’s calm,
present, amidst. Do you read Richard Brautigan? There’s a lot of
Brautigan, it seems. I love Brautigan. The humor that cuts, the
simplicity that fogs a warm fog, the embodied heart born somehow with
eyes that’s worn on a secondhand sleeve.

I’m gushing now. Oh well. I hope you can stand some gushing.

I worried about your name throughout the stories. I wondered: are
these his memories? Is this memoir, fiction, or, instead, the greasy
line where memory and imagination churn new possibles, where the act
of writing is a laboratory. Like this one time I was driving a 15 foot
Budget rental truck out of the parking lot of my old apartment
building because I was moving apartments and I needed to drive it two
blocks down the street to my new apartment building and unload all my
stuff into yet another apartment and I looked both ways twice to make
sure no cars were coming, I’m an extremely nervous driver, so I looked
both ways a third time just to be sure and I let my foot off the brake
because I didn’t see anyone coming except I’d forgotten to look down
from the height of the truck’s cab, I’d forgotten to look right in
front of me, and there was a man, a bald man, in his thirties maybe,
walking just in front of the truck as I released the brake and if it
wasn’t for his hands shooting up to protect himself I wouldn’t have
seen him, I would have killed him, or seriously injured him, but I
slammed on the brake again, and he dove out of the way. I think we
were both too shocked to say anything. He didn’t yell. I didn’t yell.
We didn’t talk at all. We just stared at each other like two aliens
from different planets. Is your fiction like what I do sometimes
–during a dinner with friends, or in the shower, or when walking to
get soy milk from the bodega–where I imagine hitting the bald man
with the truck, seeing his face bleeding on the curb, his bent legs
beneath the truck’s engine, his scraped hands spread on the pavement,
other pedestrians screaming? Is that what these stories are? Or are
they something else? I’m interested either way. They’re the best
fictions I’ve read all year, without a doubt. Thank you for them. I’m
looking forward to reading more.

David Backer


One response to “The Best Fiction I Read Last Year: On Scott McClanahan’s “Stories II”

  1. ha. you gush so well.

    this is great.

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