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Crapalachia: A Biography of Place

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  1,780 ratings  ·  304 reviews
"McClanahan's prose is unfettered and kinetic and his stories seem like a hyper-modern iteration of local color fiction. His delivery is guileless and his morality ambivalent and you get the sense, while reading him, that he is sitting next to you on a barstool, eating peanuts and drinking a beer, and intermittently getting up to pick a song on the jukebox."—The Rumpus
Kindle Edition, 192 pages
Published March 12th 2013 by Two Dollar Radio (first published January 1st 2013)
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4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,780 ratings  ·  304 reviews

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Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Critics say it's a blend of memoir and fiction. Yeah, I see that it's storytelling. A little uneven. Some parts read like poverty tourism, but the love is there.

This is the second book that I've read this week with a mine full of dead miners. The ones in the other book didn't live long enough after a cave-in to start eating their shoelaces.

Dec 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, bought
I loved this book more than I can say. It was a wonderful book that I'll probably read again. The story had emotion, grit, a hard humor that cracks me up every time, and it just felt very real to me. Sometimes when you read memoirs, or any book really, you can sorta picture things but you can't fully get lost. This book allowed me to get lost in it and I appreciate that more than anything else in whatever I'm reading.
Richard Derus
Apr 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rating: 4.5* of five

The Publisher Says: When Scott McClanahan was fourteen he went to live with his Grandma Ruby and his Uncle Nathan, who suffered from cerebral palsy. Crapalachia is a portrait of these formative years, coming-of-age in rural West Virginia.

Peopled by colorful characters and their quirky stories, Crapalachia interweaves oral folklore and area history, providing an ambitious and powerful snapshot of overlooked Americana.

My Review: Memoir...I remember...that's what makes this book
Sep 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Even though I was only 14 years old, there was no telling when the angel of death might come to get my ass.

This is a book about suicide, dead miners, and children being left to scream and writhe in pain because their parents can't afford doctors.

And yet, I couldn't stop laughing.

She told us the story about how he was trying to get his pension from the mines. But before he got it, he had to fight for a couple of months. He finally got a letter that went..."Dear Mr. McClanahan, we regret to info
Ben Loory
May 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One time a man left home. He had argued with his mother and father the day before he left. They spoke horrible words to one another and he left without saying goodbye. He had been gone many years and even spent time in jail. Years later, he finally got out of jail and he wondered if his mother and father were even alive, and if they were ashamed of what had been said and of where he had wound up. He wrote to them and told them he would be coming home on a specific day the following week. If they ...more
Aug 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: human beings
Recommended to Ginger by: Phyllis Moore
McClanahan wrote about people I've known and loved, and love, and remember, and misremember, and sometimes want to forget. He pretended to be rock solid hard-ass Appalachian/West Virginian, then shape-shifted in that magic way of the Scot-Irishman and became liquid, seeped into my soul and washed loose all the debris that had settled there -- was resting quite nicely, in fact -- and stirred up all that shit and made me laugh and cry and nod my head in agreement and want a drink even though I don ...more
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a great read. Probably one of my favorites read in 2016. I look forward to checking out more of his stuff.
Mar 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i am not going to write like a real review here but i will say that this book broke my heart and then stitched it back together again into something slightly larger than it was before, and i had a decent-sized heart to begin with. also the way this book is structured is like nothing i'd really encountered in terms of the way scott sets up chapters and sections and characters and really makes this a book that is not only a memoir/novel type situation [the idea being that telling someone the facts ...more
Michael Seidlinger
This book is evidence of the fact that McClanahan would live through the treacherously bad times and still manage to bring that big grin around and wide. He'll say "CURE FOR DEPRESSION" and he’ll show you what's up. How to do it. How to keep from letting a bummer bring you down.

I don’t waste any time trying to discern between which parts of Crapalachia are true or not; set together as a singular entity, family history as Crapalachia, it is all true, and every single word of it must be read.

Jun 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is the perfect antidote for such trash as "Honey Boo Boo" or the duck-and-catfish folks that seem to constitute the entirety of non-singing/non-cooking Reality TV these days. Much like "Winter's Bone," Crapalachia paints a depressingly realistic picture of what life is like for people living on the mountainous fringes of American society, yet does so in a way that doesn't rob them of their inherent dignity. There is nothing cute or funny about these folks, and America really needs to d ...more
This is set in Danese, WV, a town so small I've never even heard of it -- and not to brag or anything, but I know a fair amount of the smallest towns in West Virginia.

I have all kinds of mixed feelings about this one, so my rating might change once I let it stew for a bit. As someone with Appalachian roots whose blood pressure isn't capable of handling jokes at the expense of rural America (the excess of "what do you expect from an uneducated hillbilly" comments on the recent Duck Dynasty kerfu
Jamie Gaughran-Perez
Make sure you read the Appendix. I don't want to spoil anything though, but the Appendix = the fifth star in 5 and I'm not a 5-star giving kinda guy. But I do have weak spot for southern literature, as they call it. I said smarter things along the way, there was more from this book that I wanted, but I still walked away with so much. Pick it up.
Jan 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
McClanahan has, by virtue of his intense talents, built up an utterly unique reading experience. He doesn't write books, he writes sermons. And he doesn't preach them to you from on high so much as sit down across a plate of onion rings from you and, like a dear old friend, catch you up on the comings and goings in the cosmos with the subtle human joy of a drunken, mischievous sage. Yes, the world can be ugly and hard...but as he says, "Please tell me you remember kindness. Please tell me you re ...more
Jan 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This guy is a riot. I once saw him at a book reading and he was such a freak show that I took it off my "about to read" pile and put it on my "someday I will get to it because he was one interesting guy" pile. (don't believe me, watch this: BUT ONLY CLICK IF YOU ARE COMMITTED TO THE FULL 10 MINUTES....... Well,I decided to attempt the audiobook version, and what a treat/trip. WAY different.

It cracks you up, makes you sad, makes you think, makes you consid
Loved it, loved it, LOVED IT. If not my favorite book of 2014, it's up there. It is also now, one of my comfort books.

I don't even care if it was partially fictionalized. I found the stories and characters absolutely fascinating. I especially liked Ruby and Nathan, and Little Bill.

Ohh, and I listened to the audiobook version. The narrator they picked to read it was perfect. He had the accent and tones down. I liked it when he would say "WHAT THE FUCK?!".
Jenny (Reading Envy)
A combination of memoir and short stories, and some of the characters also tell stories. I half expected a book with this title to be disparaging toward West Virginia, but instead it is a heartfelt, connected look at Scott McClanahan's extended family and the children he grew up with in rural West Virginia.

A few of the most memorable moments:
Funeral pictures
Home nurses
Learning the history of mining disasters in school
Charles White
Jul 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ultimately affecting, though the brief polemic at the end about Lee Smith, et al is cute bullshit.
Ron S
Jun 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's nice to see a book from a small press (Two Dollar Radio) that aims at an honest portrayal of lives lived in Appalachia (instead of a cartoon version) get major review attention (as this book did in the NYT). This is a book about family, a place, a state of mind, a way of being. There are rivers and malls and mountains mentioned, but not as you might expect. The language is poetic and as casually simple and addictive as homemade crank. Every spring for most of the last 20 years I've gone to ...more
Tyler Crumrine
Dec 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I will remember and I will love. I will not forget the awful responsibility of time. I will remember kindness and joy. I will continue to reach for the mountaintops, even from the holler. This book is a mountaintop. More mountaintops, please. More mountaintops.
More personal and sedate than his short stories, Crapalachia still slays your heart with McClanahan's personal tales of family and death and sadness.
Angus McKeogh
Nothing amazing. Thoroughly disjointed (which is explained in the Appendix and Notes), that section is also perhaps the best of the whole book. I’m not sure great books are meant to be that way; meandering, mediocre stories punctuated by the best blurb at the end. Just okay for me.
Tominda Adkins
Aug 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everything in this book is entirely true. If you grew up anywhere close to the heart of West Virginia, and were raised by people who were raised by people who were raised by people who grew up there, too, then you'll understand exactly what I'm talking about. I'm talking about a place where people revel in kitsch without irony and where the death of every family member develops its own gruesome folklore (which is completely appropriate for kitchen table discussions, by the way). A place where we ...more
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book will make you feel every person you've ever known, those ghosts you loved that have never left. I felt really sad, because fate, but really hopeful, because reflection, while reading this book. Though home follows you, you can never go back.

"I felt darkness because I had been deep in the hollers, and I knew glory because I had stood on top of the beautiful mountaintops. More mountaintops please. More mountaintops."

I don't know why it took me so long to read it Crapalachia.
Mar 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It doesn't get better than knowing a few pages in, I want to devour this book like a pan of his Grandma Ruby's peanut butter fudge. The character of his uncle will stay with me for a long time, reminding me that everyone has layers to them if we just take the time to look.

The bold appendix was perhaps my favorite part. In it he offers his explanations for inventing, merging and modifying the truth. I love how this speaks to subjective memory and the fluid embroidery of family stories.

A quote: I
May 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fact fiction fact fiction place fact fiction fact fiction family fact fiction West Virginia fact fiction story fact fiction love fact fiction fact fiction longing fact fiction fact fiction birth fact fiction fact fiction God fact fiction fact fiction dirt and stones.

More -
Mar 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I liked the way that the narrator in this book is as intimately connected to the emotion as possible, yet stands aside and just lets that emotion come across without really suggesting what the reader should feel. It feels very natural and real, moving and powerful without ever appearing to try real hard. In short, damn fine writing.
Shawn Mooney
Colorful characters and anecdotes, written with about as much care and crafting as I put into composing a grocery list. Linked together with all-caps sentence-long exclamatory headings that presumably were meant to be cute. Worst of all, punctuated by vomit-worthy passages of sentimentality that, whether they were intended to be ironic or not, simply stank. This was a piece of crapalachia.
Dec 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hot damn this book is good. Like, really good. Really really good. I'll be effusive about it in detail over at The Nervous Breakdown in a month or two, but for now, just know that I think EVERYONE should be pre-ordering this.

You should read this book if you like:
Fictionalized memoirs, scattered memories, genuine human experiences, dysfunctional families, dark and depressing sprinkled with humor
I originally reviewed this book at

Rating: 4.25/5 calls to 911 to get the ambulance to take you to the store to buy 7-Up for your son

HOLY BALLS YOU GUYS I AM WRITING A BOOK REVIEW. Yes, yes, I actually read my ass a book and now I'm reviewing the motherfucker*.

*Apologies to Scott McClanahan and Two Dollar Radio for referring to the book as "motherfucker." I have no evidence at all that the book fucked any mothers.

I didn't know anything about Crapalachia when it arrived in
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Let's Start a Boo...: Hated this book! Not worth your time to read! 1 22 Feb 02, 2014 07:51PM  
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Scott McClanahan (born June 24, 1978) is an American writer, filmmaker, and martial artist. He lives in Beckley, West Virginia and is the author of eight books. His most recent book, The Sarah Book, was featured in Rolling Stone, Village Voice, and Playboy. NPR called the book "brave, triumphant and beautiful — it reads like a fever dream, and it feels like a miracle." McClanahan is also a co-foun ...more
“I knew he believed in something that none of us ever do anymore. He believed in the nastiest word in the world. He believed in KINDNESS. Please tell me you remember kindness. Please tell me you remember kindness and joy, you cool motherfuckers.” 24 likes
“I never look at a painting and ask, "Is this painting fictional or non-fictional?" It's just a painting.” 15 likes
More quotes…