29. The Next Scott Nadelson, by Scott Nadelson

27 Jul

The Next Scott Nadelson

Oh, my beloved Hawthorne imprint, whose every book I like.

The Next Scott Nadelson is a memoir about a guy living in Portland who gets dumped by his fiancee and is depressed for a while, but eventually gets over it—that is to say, it’s a memoir about an ordinary person reeling around in the dramas of ordinary life. With something like this it’s all about the rendering of detail and the level of insight the person is able to achieve into their dramas. Scott Nadelson writes wonderful detail and treats himself gently but unsparingly.

It’s really, really good.

I enjoyed the parts about Nadelson’s depression and suffering—who doesn’t like to read about someone else moping, especially when they’re up-front about it? Here’s how the book begins:

“A few years ago, when I was still living in Portland, single and shadowed by a persistent and unaccountable sense of failure, I gave a reading in a downtown bookstore. It was late winter, and I didn’t expect anyone to show up.”

There’s something very comforting about a person sharing his “persistent and unaccountable sense of failure.”

Nadelson then travels back in time, explaining how ended up a mere month away from marriage with a woman of whom he says,  “she struggled with depression, she had a temper, she didn’t like my friends,” and who dumped him for a drag king named Donny Manicotti,  leaving him “bewildered and devastated.”

Then he goes further back, to high school, when he felt a vague, incoherent waiting for some adventure to occur (the teen scavenger hunt set-piece from this chapter is hilarious), and then junior high, when he longed to be invisible.

It’s this invisibility and minor cowardice that he ends up linking to his adult failures, that he finds when he sets out to “look at what you don’t want to see.” At the end of a particularly wonderful chapter about being hazed at camp, he writes:

“Now, once again, as I picture my younger self standing in that doorway, so small and unassuming, hair tangled with cowlicks, shirt marred with grass stains, I have a terrible urge to call out. Go on, I want to tell him. Get it over with. If you can stop hiding now, you’ll save us so much trouble later on.”

Just beautiful. Made me cry.

Hiding and denying his own desires is part of Nadelson’s depressive strategy and, nearing the end of the book when he’s soon to rejoin the world, there’s a house renovation he walks by:

“On a quiet side street, where the ground sloped up abruptly and the houses were built into the hillside, an old Victorian had been lifted off its foundation and propped a dozen feet above the ground to make room for another full story beneath…. My initial reaction was outrage, which surprised me as much as the sight itself. Why should people want so much? Why couldn’t they be satisfied with a beautiful house as it was?”

He becomes obsessed, visiting the house nearly every day, wishing the owners ill, spying on them, disturbed by the air and space beneath the house and by it’s inhabitants’ obliviousness to disaster. The image of a house floating up in the air is a wonderful one in a book about a man trying to establish a self and a life–a house, if you will, to live in. The lesson of his obsession with it is not if his response is reasonable or spiteful, right or wrong, but that he cares, deeply, and will have to get a house—though a less obnoxious one—of his own.



5 Responses to “29. The Next Scott Nadelson, by Scott Nadelson”

  1. jshipley2013 July 27, 2015 at 10:57 am #

    I, too, adore Hawthorne Books: i.e. Lydia Yuknavitch’s The Chronology of Water and Gregory Martin’s Stories for Boys (memoir junkie, straight up).
    I have not read The Next Scott…but now I am intrigued: judging by your post it seems that his life is not all that extraordinary, (the former standard for memoir used to be someone’s execrable behavior, right?) but here, I think you’re suggesting it’s less in the behavior and more in the telling of a condition, an inner/ emotional inflammation, something more lowgrade and inherent to us all, or maybe to Americans of a certain age?
    Or maybe he’s struck the perfect ration of self scrutiny to story telling, a little David Sedaris-esque? that makes this book adorable.
    Meanwhile, I wonder if there is some sort of suspense like, “Will he find love, will he get over her?” that keeps one turning the pages.
    I find even if I love the writing, there has to be something withheld or unresolved that keeps me engaged. I’m so glad you wrote about this book, because I might not have picked it up, but now I have to.

    • Ivalleria July 28, 2015 at 2:44 am #

      Julia, you’re amazing! I love Lidia Yuknavitch’s Chronology of Water too, and even took an inspirational and life-changing writing class with her a few years ago, called Ecstatic States, about sex, death and memoir.

      I am not sure that Scott’s life will be unresolved/suspenseful enough for you. He tells us fairly early on that he’s now married, so some of the suspense in the book is wondering if we’ll see that relationship starting, but I wouldn’t say it’s nail-biting. But the book is good! I picked it up sort of like, Eh, maybe this? And then was happily and fully engaged till I finished it.

      The Hawthorne book I’m really looking forward to is called White Matter and is a memoir coming out in September.

      Otherwise, I missed you at the SMX reunion! Won’t you come next time? They’re fun.

  2. Eli Vassie August 31, 2015 at 10:51 am #

    Townes Van Zandt and is a book that is hard to put aside Philip Roth usually comes to mind when I read Nadelson I mention the Roth comparison because I think Nadelson is better compared with another writer, not Jewish. Reading Scott Nadelson makes me want to read more Turgenev, but only while I eagerly await the next Scott Nadelson.

    • Ivalleria September 1, 2015 at 1:58 pm #

      Totally! “The Next Scott Nadelson” starts with a great series on how he wants to be “The Next Philip Roth” but never will be. So glad you like this worthy writer, too.


  1. The Next Scott Nadelson review - August 14, 2015

    […] Scott Nadelson: A Life in Progress just appeared in the terrific book blog An Anthology of Clouds: https://ananthologyofclouds.com/2015/07/27/29-the-next-scott-nadelson-by-scott-nadelson/. Made my […]

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