The Aftermath of Our Decisions

With a title like Aftermath, one might expect Scott Nadelson’s new short fiction collection to be full of tales of devastation and chaos. To some extent, this is true; each of the stories deals with hard emotional and physical realities, but the aftermath of the character’s decisions is not wholly dispiriting. Hope abounds in these tales–unlike Nadelson’s previous collections–and you are left with the impression that, regardless of the current story’s unhappinesses, things will get better. They have a chance for a happy and fulfilling life or love and it leaves you as the reader with a pleasant satisfaction.

I have been a fan of Nadelson’s since I picked up his first two short collections when I registered for a course of his in undergrad. I make it a habit to read an author’s work before working or speaking with them, which I think is only polite and it is advice that not enough people heed. I found myself pulled into the simple and evocative prose in a way that I hadn’t found before in realistic literary fiction. I was particularly interested in his work as his stories do a wonderful job of working within the Jewish American culture while remaining open and inviting to gentiles such as myself. I feel welcomed into the families and cultures of his stories and they are enriched by the depth and intimacy with which they are woven.

Nadelson’s first two works (The Cantor’s Daughter and Saving Stanley) were stunning in their own right, but Aftermath is definitely surpassing them as my favorite collection. Partly due to the more hopeful nature of the stories, but moreso for two particular stories that appear here: “If You Needed Me” and “Backfill.”

“If You Needed Me” is a Rashomon style telling of a grandfather that looses control of his car and accidentally sends it crashing through the wall of his daughter’s house while the grandchildren are watching Saturday morning cartoons. The varied viewpoints are handled with finesse; they each reveal just enough information and the change to the next viewpoint is seamlessly carried out. Not an easy task in a short work, but beautifully crafted here.

In “Backfill,” a rocky marriage and a bad construction assignment are playing havoc with Robert’s life and sanity. The junk filled old quarry that is the site he’s supposed to be preparing for overpriced McMansions is a wonderful scene to juxtapose against the failing relationship. The most powerful part, however, are the beautiful lines that close the story, and no, I’m not going to give them to you. Go read it!

While these two stories stood out in particular to me, all of the stories are expertly crafted and evoke a wide range of emotion. Definitely my favorite of Nadelson’s work thus far, though I’m now eagerly awaiting Nadelson’s collection of autobiographical essays due out in March of 2013 from Hawthorne Books!

Emotional devastation with just a dash of hopefulness...

If you’re looking for a good read…

When I find myself on the hunt for a new read–and want something that is thought provoking and beautifully written, rather than quick and mind-numbing–I invariably pull up Hawthorne Book‘s catalog and pick one of their backlist that I haven’t yet had a chance to read. They are an independent publisher out of Oregon that publishes nothing but absolutely incredible work. I have studied under two of their authors (Michael Strelow and Scott Nadelson) and fallen in love with several others (Poe Ballantine of note, and I cannot wait for his new book, set to come out next year!).

Their dedication to superb work extends not only to the work they choose to publish, but to the design and printing of the books themselves. They are sleekly designed with archival quality paper and heavy duty spines to withstand rugged loving, yet provide the reader with a truly pleasant reading experience.

But enough gushing over the paper stock. I will have some reviews up soon on some of their books, including Clown Girl by Monica Drake and Scott Nadelson’s new collection Aftermath. And who knows, I’ll probably keep digging through the backlist and reviewing more of their books; frankly, I always enjoy them so much I can’t stop talking about them anyways, so you all might as well get a taste!