Review of Scott McClanahan’s Stories V! by Lavinia Ludlow

Scott McClanahan recently debuted Stories V!, a collection of dark-humored honest depictions of a boy migrating through childhood, adolescence, pre-pubescence, and early adulthood. There are dead baby jokes, pet relationships, the peril of having to choose between watching Superman IV or attending a classmate’s funeral, health problems of intimate assortments, a sex tape used as conversational lube with a girl.

McClanahan writes tenderness, humor, and moments of heart-heavy disaster into each of his pieces in a Dave Sedaris-like manner (not necessarily on crack, maybe just a little), in both deliverance and professionalism. There are never any noticeable flaws in the text or design, neither awkward delivery nor bouts of in-your-face rants.

The titles of each short story are ridden with blatant yet essential detail: “But There is a Second Ending to Sex Tapes too” and “Now Some Public Apologies” and “So Now a List of Things I’m Ashamed of,” seemingly more like journal entries or personal letters to his own self that segue into each other. Take a list of things he is ashamed of, the last one being, “And I’m ashamed of what I did to Nicky” and the following chapter is indeed his tale about what he once did to Nicky.

There’s a definite non-fiction feel to McClanahan’s book, even more so since he strategically weaves his name into the narratives. It felt as if I was reading his internal monologue, him at his most vulnerable, all his secrets and insecurities sprawled out on the page for us to judge, to laugh at, to fall for. Stories V! is preceded by a string of volumes, one through four to be exact, all of which I am bound to snag soon. They may not have an incredibly hot girl sprawled across the cover, but I’m confident the insides are bursting with stories of unparalleled characteristic.

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