ONE OF THE PLEASURES of reading local writers is seeing the familiar sights of your home through a new set of eyes. The Southeast Portland attics and basements that Scott Nadelson describes in his new memoir The Next Scott Nadelson are familiar terrain—and like Nadelson, I've clocked many trips on the mobile halfway house that is the #15 bus.
Nadelson's new book, his fourth from local press Hawthorne Books, is a thoughtful, bracingly honest collection of stories in which the Oregon writer reflects on a disastrous breakup, his awkward high school years ("Being invisible was the fantasy I indulged most consistently at 13."), and the personal and professional disappointments of his early 30s.
It's unusual to read a memoir built of short stories, but it works—instead of forcing a narrative arc onto his own life, as so many memoir writers do, Nadelson simply places these stories next to one another, allowing their edges to overlap, tugging the reader forward and backward in time. The results are funny, quietly compelling, and unflinchingly frank.
In the book's intro, Nadelson writes that the Scott Nadelson described in the book is "as close to the person who walks around in the world with that name as possible—as close, that is, as is possible for a combination of sentences to stand in for an actual human being."
Where Nadelson has built a golem out of paper and typeface, another writer appearing in Portland this week is best known for creating a flashy and elaborate hologram.
In the late 1990s, author Laura Albert created a character named JT LeRoy, animated JT with a sensational backstory involving drugs and gay prostitution, and sent her own books out into the world under LeRoy's byline, where they were met first with critical acclaim, and later wide condemnation, when the novels Sarah and The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things were found to have been written not by a precocious teen, but by a dissembling middle-aged woman. (Albert calls JT her "avatar," and says the deception was necessary to help her deal with her own life issues.) Albert will be in town this week, at a benefit for the homeless nonprofit p:ear. Local authors Monica Drake and Arthur Bradford will read her work, and local publisher Kevin Sampsell will conduct an on-stage interview. If Nadelson's work is a faithful attempt to represent a life, Albert is best known for the opposite: draping her work in a phony authorial mystique. But hey, at least it's for a good cause.