Scott McClanahan had three published books, and no agent, to his credit when he sent the first chapter of Crapalachia to Eric Obenauf, publisher of the Ohio indie press, Two Dollar Radio. The pages came at Obenauf’s request; he had been following the young author—McClanahan is 35—over his short career. Now, after strong reviews from PW (which gave the book a star), the Washington Post, Atlanta-Journal Constitution, and the New York Times Book Review, Crapalachia, which came out on March 19, is shaping up to be a sizable hit for Two Dollar Radio.
McClanahan, who is from a small town in West Virginia, has written three previous books: two short story collections, published by Six Gallery Press, Stories (2008) and Stories II (2009), as well as a third collection, Stories V, which McClanahan released through his own publisher/production company, Holler Presents. Obenauf received the beginnings of what would become Crapalachia when he solicited a piece from McClanahan for a new biannual fiction journal Two Dollar Radio is publishing called Frequencies.
Obenauf signed the book. Now, after Two Dollar Radio released the work with a 2,000-copy printing, which is a standard run for the press, Obenauf said the numbers are strong; he has gone back to press once and the book has sold 3,500 (print and e-) copies to date. While Obenauf thinks the book is selling thanks to the mounting stack of critical raves, he also believes that McClanahan has been building an audience on his own.
Crapalachia, a memoir, distills life in the poor, rural world McClanahan is from; in her New York Times review, Allison Glock called it a place “where existence is both tedious and shocking. Where violence is something to do.” And the book came out to a small but dedicated fan base that McClanahan built after years of tirelessly reading from his previous works at, as Obenauf put it, “any place that would have him.”
Readings have been especially important to McClanahan since he is a dynamic presence, bringing an element of performance to his events. Obenauf said he has a “striking, emotive” way about him that has won him fans. McClanahan is now getting noticed as a performer: Brooklyn’s L Magazine included McClanahan on a list of top 20 New York City performers in 2012; he was the sole author to make the cut.
Given the attention, McClanahan may not remain with the super-independent circuit for too much longer. He now has an agent—Anna Stein at Aitken Alexander—and signed only a one-book contract with Two Dollar Radio. He also seems prolific: his next book, Hill William, is being published by Tyrant Books in August.