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Hill William

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  642 ratings  ·  118 reviews
"You can tell McClanahan feels something when he writes and when he lives. He wants you to feel something too."—The Huffington Post

I walked up to the side of the mountain like I used to do when I was a little boy. I looked out over Rainelle and watched it shine. The coal trucks and the logging trucks were still gunning it through town. They were still clear cutting the mou
Kindle Edition, 200 pages
Published October 14th 2013 by Tyrant Books (first published August 13th 2013)
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Michael Seidlinger
I punched myself in the face after reading this, it was so good. I punched myself again, and then I forced myself to eat the pages.

Every single page, until the book became a part of me.

Richard Derus
Jul 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: Beginning to read Hill William is like tuning into a blues station at 4:00 a.m. while driving down the highway. Scott McClanahan's work soars with a brisk and lively plainsong, offering a boisterous peek into a place often passed over in fiction: West Virginia, where coal and heartbreak reign supreme. Hill William testifies to the way place creates and sometimes stifles one's ability to hope. It reads like a Homeric hymn to adventure, to the human comedy's u
Tyler Crumrine
Nov 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Scott McClanahan is shaping us into swords.
M. Sarki
Jul 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Not sure I even know a Scott McClanahan. However, I have read five of his books now and I have seen him on TV, or my equivalent of TV, if you can count and consider youtube as part of my inadequate equation. I have also heard him speak to me, again on my machine that allows me this enterprise, in a voice that is somewhat gravelly and raw and at times a bit, I think, deranged. Similar to a defrocked but still far too-serious preacher. Sort of also like an i
Jan 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A list of the top ten types of people who won't like Hill William

1. Delicate people.

2. People who want to spend weeks or months with a novel.

3. Nuns. (This is a bad generalisation. Some nuns might like it.)

4. People who despise prose that reads like poetry.

5. People who want to turn their books into doorstops or paperweights.

6. People who dislike reading about violence and cruelty.

7. Parents who don't want their children reading distasteful literature.

8. Traditionalists.

9. People who don't like
Charles  Beauregard
It is unfortunately not the type of book I like. It doesn't fare well when compared to McCarthy, who I can't help but compare a southern 'realist' author to. His style is tepid.
Aug 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It really is something to see how McClanahan can hit readers with such penetrating emotions with a narrative voice that is both calm and non-manipulative. He just lays it out there, though the words still have an essential poetry to them, and it seems so straightforward that you don't even see it coming. Then it hits you. There is some real power there, and it's all the more impressive because McClanahan makes it seem effortless. It just 'is' something that moves.
Kyle Muntz
Nov 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really nice book that has most of what I love about Scott McClanahan's writing (his collected stories and Crapallacia are both favorites of mine), though this one feels a bit too much like a fix-up novel, with a bunch of collected short stories that don't quite add up to a novel. It's much darker than Crapallacia, made up of penetratingly insightful, sad moments of childhood, particularly centering around Scott's (the narrator's) unpleasant, mentally unstable friend Derrick (probably the "Hill ...more
Matthew Savoca
Nov 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Here is a beautiful man.

Here is another book I would never have come across if not for The Tournament of Books. It is a coming of age tale but not much like any such story I have read before.

The opening sentences: "I used to hit myself in the face. Of course, I had to be careful about hitting myself now that I was dating Sarah. One night we got into a fight and I went into the bathroom to get rid of that sick feeling in my shoulders, and I did it. I wasn't feeling any better afterwards, so I hit myself in the face one
Feb 27, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
I only read this one because it made the Tournament if Books list. Mercifully short - it would have been a painful experience if it had been any longer. Not terrible, but I don't think I would have missed it if I never picked it up.
Feb 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-dirty-south
In this one, McClanahan wrote the story he needed, not the story we wanted. All I can say is, thank God he did.
Ben Loory
Aug 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thank you Lord for letting me see Mountains.
Melissa Rochelle
I knew making my way through the Tournament of Books shortlist would be a challenge. I read for good stories, not good writing. I don't care if a writer comes from some fantastic MFA program in Iowa or NYC. I want a book that entertains or educates or something. This little book takes everything bad that could happen to a kid and makes it happen. It was a tough read -- like watching 12 Years a Slave -- you know these things have happened to people, but it doesn't make it any easier to read/watch ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I read most of this while standing around at an airport gate, waiting for a friend to arrive. It's a quick read.

But not an easy read. I was first exposed to Scott McClanahan when I came across Crapalachia: A Biography of Place. It was realistic but funny, taking moments of the author's own life. In the case of Hill William, I'm less certain I want to know if is based on the author's experiences. Where Crapalachia was quirky, Hill William was uncomfortable. Where Crapalachia made me laugh, Hill W
Jan 26, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm being a tad curmudgeonly and cutting 1/2 star because I get annoyed by novels in which the protagonist has the name name as the author, and the book is dedicated to a woman who has the same name as the protagonist's love. Stop it. Just stop it. If you want to write a memoir, write a memoir.

Otherwise, this is an oddly compelling, at times vicious book. I can't say I "liked" it, and at times it was hard to read (explicit sexual abuse of kids), but also some really good writing in spots.
Jan 09, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014
There's some rough raw content here about growing up in Appalachia, in the midst of violence to both nature and humans. But I thought the voice was way to MFA - faux innocent interspersed with "deep" truths. Slight and skippable.
Juliet Escoria
Jan 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Scott McClanahan is a genius.
Daniel Eastman
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
McClanahan writes like a child sputtering out a story he isn't supposed to be telling. McClanahan writes like he hasn't been drilled for years on a right or wrong way to write. McClanahan doesn't write so much as speak, conversationally and accessibly, to you, whoever you are. And you can be anyone. He desperately wants you to know his world. I don't know if I can call it minimalist or realist, because there are certainly times when this verges on the poetically surreal.

The other night I was at
Brian Tucker
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If Larry Brown had wrote shorthand...
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't get enough of his work. He writes simply and beautifully about *the* most difficult, awful things in this world.
Jan 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
there is a lightweight quality to scott mcclanahan's voice that lulls you into thinking you are being told a story by someone at a bar, and sometimes that story is going to be funny and sometimes that story is going to be sad, but it will most likely be lightweight. scott mcclanahan is not a lightweight, his casual approach just makes you think he is. there is a rural poetry to the casual viciousness of hill william, a novel that catalogues a traumatic childhood (the ignorant malice of early sex ...more
Jan 22, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Sadly mesmerising
Both charms and unnerves

This is not mainstream storytelling, certainly a road less travelled. It is prose stripped back to bare essentials. It is full of ugliness. You somehow feel dirty just looking in on the narrative.

The calmness of pace and language set up an inner vibration of trepidation. It is hauntingly honest with characters that, at first, seem stereotyped, but, at their dark heart, are well crafted and intimately nuanced. The West Virginia setting resonates. The deva
Christopher Bundy
Dec 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Picked this up after seeing Scott McClanahan read at Atlanta's Letters Festival (wonderful first (annual?) festival put together by Scott Daughtridge & others). Knew of Scott and his work already but so moved by his reading that night that I grabbed this new book from him (would have grabbed Crapalachia too but wasn't on the table). Stark but humanizing look at growing up in W. Virginia. Feels largely autobiographical though it's called a novel - either way, I don't care. I liked the short, ...more
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, fiction, kindle
I admit, I had a visceral reaction to Hill William that made me really dislike it. It was very short - maybe 200 pages - and probably about half the content just made me feel gross and slimy.

But I feel like the book completely failed even *beyond* the gut-reaction. It just didn't hang together - it was fragmented and inconsistent and very muddy regarding the PoV character and how much is recollection and how much is just skipping around temporally.

And at the end of it, there was just nothing the
I read this in one day while waiting for my mom to have knee replacement surgery before the brouhaha about this guy trying to quit the tournament (which he obvs. didn't understand) via fb.... So, definitely in the vein of outsider art. some nice turns of phrase. It is difficult to know how to say this, but there was something about the matter of fact and everyday tone that the book uses to talk about sexual abuse that sort of rings true. I felt that really got at something that i've rarely if ev ...more
Mar 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
If you've read a lot about dirt poor folk, whether in Appalachia (the setting of this book) or the south side of Chicago or Harlem or just about anywhere, then you're not going to find any new observations in McClanahan's maybe roman a clef. That said, he can certainly write. The chapter "My Anger Problem" is especially good, bringing together all of his strengths: humor, detail, empathy, minimalism.

As the experience of the down and out is varied it might be useful to mention that McClanahan fo
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some writers use too many words to say things. Scott McClanahan is not one of those writers. Hill William will come at the broken places in you like a coal truck and a logging truck playing chicken with your soul. I'm embarrassed to say I had to dig deeper to figure out the title. Of course. William is the formal form of Billy, which only goes to prove you really can put lipstick on a pig.

Check out this link to a great interview with Scott done by Joseph Riippi...
Cindy Pineo
May 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn't think I was going to like Hill William. The cover copy makes it sound brutal and erratic and amoral. But while it is somewhat brutal, it's also gentle and a deftly told story, and I connected with the narrator, a damaged but mostly good guy. It's more a story of recovering from abuse than a story that lingers on the details of abuse (which was what I feared). And it's pleasingly experimental and avant-garde, not in a show-offy way, but subtly.
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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
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“I couldn't believe it.

Something wasn't right.

I thought, "Batman smokes cigarettes."

I couldn't believe it. "Batman smokes fucking cigarettes."

I walked away and saw that Batman was just this stupid guy dressed up in a rubber suit, just as afraid as I was, and that I lived in a lost place inside my own heart, where even Batman couldn't help me.”
“That night I dreamed about flying turtles and forest fires and fucking the earth...The next morning I awoke and I listened to the tree company tearing away the woods and the timber. I heard the chainsaws ripping outside my open window and I heard the dynamite exploding all the mountain tops away for the black rock below. And instead of feeling sad like I did most mornings, I felt something else now. I found myself saying, 'Explode. Explode you mountains. Rip them down you fuckers. Take this stinking dirt and leave this land with hatred and death.” 1 likes
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