I'm currently engrossed in Jonathan Lethem's hilarious, perceptive and beautifully written paean to contemporary New York culture, Chronic City. I've long been an avid reader of Lethem's work and always look forward to his next book. For me, Chronic City is a return to form after the somewhat disappointing You Don't Love Me. But I was interested in hearing on WNYC's Soundcheck with Lethem and Kevin Avery that the protagonist of Chronic City was loosely based on the late, but sorely missed critic Paul Nelson. Not physically, but intellectually. That is, as someone that is, above all else, engaged with the culture. As I've written before, my interest in Nelson goes back to the Little Sandy Review in the early 1960s, when he, along with fellow editor, Jon Pancake, became one of my favorite music writers. Once Nelson moved to New York, I more or less lost contact with many of his activities, while I was more into the likes of Grover Lewis. Still, whenever I came across liner notes or articles by Nelson, I read them with interest. Nevertheless, I could easily identify with Nelson's obsession with film noir, Orson Welles, Philip K. Dick and Ross Macdonald. So I'm looking forward to Avery's forthcoming biography of Nelson, Everything is an Afterthought. For anyone interested in Nelson, and the world around him, and you read French, you could do worse than have a look at Philippe Garnier's Freelance: Grover Lewis a Rolling Stone. If you don't read French, try the University of Texas's Splendor in the Short Grass. Lewis was every bit Nelson's equal, with some of the same interests, and, of course, like Nelson, and a major influence on any number of subsequent rock and film critics.
London-based journalist and author of Pulp Culture: Hardboiled Fiction and the Cold War; Neon Noir: Contemporary American Crime Fiction; and Heartbreak and Vine: The Fate of Hardboiled Writers in Hollywood.