Welcome to our new blog feature: “Adam Gallari on Books”

As the book review editor at Fifth Wednesday Journal, I have found it incredibly challenging to choose just three or four books to feature per issue, especially given the high number of worthy books being published and sent to us each year. Realizing how we’d love more books reviewed and more reviewers’ voices added to the mix, we began to think of new ways this might happen. So as of today, we begin a new blog adventure intended to do just that.

Welcome to “Adam Gallari on Books.”

Adam has been a regular reviewer for both FWJ as well as The Collagist, and his essays have appeared regularly in such places as The Millions, The Rumpus, and The Quarterly Conversation. As an American living abroad, his blog will not only offer us reviews of contemporary and classic books but will also give us fresh cultural commentary and perspectives on current events. Author of the short story collection We Are Never As Beautiful As We Are Now and the forthcoming novel Alone Among Friends (both published by Ampersand Books), Adam holds an MFA from the University of California-Riverside and is in the process of preparing to defend a PhD at the University of Exeter, England. He currently lives and teaches English in Braunschweig, Germany, but has also lived in Southwest England and Paris.

Adam’s words and reviews will soon be mixed with other reviewers’ voices, too, in the weeks ahead.

As always, the team here at FWJ hope to not only offer reviews of the best writing being produced in the U.S. and beyond but also that spark new conversations with you, our readers. We warmly invite you to become a follower. Please feel free to drop Adam a note to say hello or to respond to his reviews and features, too.

So grab a cup of coffee, settle down in a favorite chair, and read Adam’s first review here. We’re glad you’ve joined us.

Wishing you each all kinds of great things in all your new journeys,

Andrea Witzke Slot
book review editor

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Beginnings, in any media, are often the most difficult things to construct. Often we don’t even realize when something has begun. It is only after time, when we look back at our current situation, that we can locate the time and place that served as the catalyst for the present moment. If we are lucky, that is. It is why prefaces and prologues are so often the last things to be written in books, because we cannot know all that is until we have arrived at some arbitrary endpoint, and even then we may find ourselves incapable of fully expressing all that has transpired.

It is fitting then, that this column begins with a book such as Scott Nadelson’s The Next Scott Nadelson, a memoir attempting to capture and locate those miniature moments that define a present life. It is a work both immediate and far reaching. It stretches into the past and attempts to bridge the present to the future, just as I hope this column will manage to do, as it explores both contemporary and classic literature and the unique cultural time in which we live. Part cultural commentary, part book review, this column aspires to be a bi-weekly product engaged in exploring the unique nexus of art and life and our present modernity. To Vern Miller and Fifth Wednesday Journal, for having been the first magazine to ever publish my work, to now giving me this cultural platform, I am forever grateful, and hope that this will fill some void, however small, in the present fabric of literary commentary and criticism in English Letters.

Adam Gallari

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ADAM GALLARI ON BOOKS

The Next Scott Nadelson: A Life In Progress by Scott Nadelson

Hawthorne Books

Publication: March, 2013

260 pages, $16.95

ISBN 978-0-9834775-6-3

There has always been something fascinating about the concept of “love.” We, as a society, as a people, invest consciously and unconsciously much of our time in its pursuit or reveling in the spectacle of it as captured by both popular culture and haute couture.  It is romanticized (no pun intended), vilified, or glorified, but rarely is it captured truly, depicted with the brutal honesty that reveals how powerfully it affects our psyches and our daily interactions with the outside world. Or as Graham Greene so aptly wrote in The End of the Affair, “How strange too and unfamiliar to think that one had been loved, that one’s presence had once had the power to make a difference between happiness and dullness in another’s day.”

Luckily we sometimes have the pleasure of discovering something that manages to restore our faith in the process of love while simultaneously reminding us that it is not the feast of rainbows and chocolate the pushers of Valentine’s Day would have us believe. And, like Greene’s The End of the Affair, Stanley Donnen’s Two for the Road, Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, or Frederick Exley’s A Fan’s Notes, Scott Nadelson’s latest collection of essays, The Next Scott Nadelson, is an honest, incisive, and deeply moving account of what it is to be young, to experience loss, and to live with the daily insecurity that comes when the future is still but a grand idea, a beautiful wasteland that can be formed in outline but never fully colored by a mind incapable of the nuance that only comes from the mistakes of experience.

Those familiar with Nadelson’s fiction will know that he is a poet of grief, yet unlike many writers today he is capable of a comic empathy that lacks any touch of irony, and which renders him vulnerable to the audience that accompanies him on his journey, for personal memoir, especially one as “mundane” as those essays contained in The Next Scott Nadelson are difficult to render successfully in contemporary literature. There are no pyrotechnics. There are no exotic locales, and the subject matter is not the grandiose glitz of raucous debauch or drug-addled binge but the bleary, monotonous routine that most twenty-somethings of the last two generations have encountered. But what saves Nadelson from the pitfall of over-extensive melancholy is that his voice lacks any sense of pity for his character — his younger self. He is sharp and self-effacing. He admits to his own wasted time and shiftlessness while trying to contextualize rather than justify it. His goal is one of self-exploration rather than self-aggrandizement. It is the task of trying to understand both the simultaneous rejection of the self by another and the rejection of one’s own image by one’s greatest enemy — the mind.

Moreover, the beauty of Nadelson’s personal journey is not that it is one of arrival, but that it revels in the fact that life is an absurd comedy of events, and at times one can almost hear the author, as he recounts the travails of a life at once common and unique, mutter softly in the background, “You can’t make this shit up.”

From having his seminal affair begin at the urging of Edna O’Brien to its destruction by a Drag King named Danny Mannicotti to a decrepit attic apartment in Oregon, Nadelson embraces the absurd as wonderful. Better, he is at peace with his failures, because he recognizes them not as failures but as the nuts and bolts used in the construction of the human being he has thus become, because life is not a linear progression but a pointillist painting best observed from distance and only overly blurry when seen up close.

For previous fans of Nadelson, The Next Scott Nadelson will come as no surprise, and it will greater enhance the understanding of his previous fiction. For those unacquainted with the author, they might be pleased to find that they have not necessarily encountered the next Philip Roth, but a new, twenty-first century version of the late, great master of the absurdly comic tragedy that is life, Saul Bellow.

Note: Scott Nadelson’s short story “Between You and Me” appeared in the fall 2013 issue of Fifth Wednesday Journal.

 

 

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