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Kevin Avery: Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life & Writings of Paul Nelson

As a young music buff in Minnesota, he introduced rising folk singer Bobby Zimmerman (eventually Bob Dylan) to the music of Woody Guthrie. As a writer for The Village Voice, he championed a little-known rock & roller named Bruce Springsteen. As part of the New Journalism movement of the 1960s and 1970s, he shaped the future of pop-culture criticism. But chances are you’ve never heard of Paul Nelson before.

Utah native Kevin Avery follows Nelson from his childhood in a strict religious household in small-town Minnesota through his early experiments with the idea of “alternative press” that didn’t even yet have that name. Avery crafts a biography of a largely self-taught thinker who immersed himself in his passions, whether that meant classic film, the detective fiction of Ross Macdonald or folk music. The author allows his subject to develop primarily through oral history, as his friends and contemporaries recall a quirky iconoclast who disappeared into obscurity and a lonely death in 2006.

But the book is most compelling simply by bringing Nelson’s own distinctive writing voice to a new generation, a voice that burned with intelligence, unabashed pimping of the work he loved and a commitment to understanding what artists were trying to accomplish. His sensibility may be best captured in the closing lines of an essay on glam-rock pioneers the New York Dolls: “[They] are still my favorite rock & roll band, although I will understand if you do not like them. I will understand, but deep down, I will not want to know you.” (Scott Renshaw)

Kevin Avery: Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life & Writings of Paul Nelson @ The King’s English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, 801-484-9100, April 13, 7 p.m., free.

Date: Apr 13, 2012
Time: 7 pm
Phone: 801-484-9100
Address: 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City, 84105
Where: King's English