Saturday, September 15, 2001

Blake Nelson

I think that it is safe to say that in our collective consciousness there exists the character-concept of the young, emerging writer. A someone who goes to college, dabbles in whatever youth-driven pop-culture exists at the time, and by dint of talent, an unerring ear, dedication to craft and unrelenting hard work, finds a strong and unique narrative voice to write a simple, unembellished story about coming of age.

That novelist actually exists, his first novel was an immediate success and now in its tenth printing.

If you're thinking of J. D. Salinger and Catcher in the Rye, you're out of luck. J.D. isn't here tonight, so he's out of luck too. Salinger was hot stuff in the Fifties, but didn't attempt to write his novel from a feminine point of view. Besides, Hollywood never made Catcher in the Rye into a movie. But Hollywood did film Blake Nelson's first novel, Girl, and he IS here.

Comparable to the strong, narrative voices reminiscent of Gore Vidal's Myra Breckinridge and the character Mattie Ross in Charles Portis' classic, True Grit, Blake's creation of Andrea Marr in Girl is compelling and unsentimental, as tough as the meanest street in Portland. I think she'll be around a long, long time.

A product of Portland and Jesuit High School and educated at Wesleyan University and New York University, Blake knocked around New York and San Francisco performing poetry at spoken word events, but eventually found his way back to Portland where he wrote Girl in 1993. Girl was picked up by Simon and Shuster in 1994, and the film version was released in 1999. Blake's second novel, Exile, saw print in 1997, also by Simon and Shuster. His third novel, User, will be released this fall by Versus Press.

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