Paul Nelson, the Rolling Stone writer and Mercury Records A & R guy who signed the New York Dolls, is quoted in Kevin Avery’s Everything is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson (Fantagraphics, 2011) as saying, “I’ve always led my life like it was a work of art and I was in it.” This quote aptly sums up Nelson’s writing style as well as his way of life. Avery presents Nelson’s biography in the first part of the book. It’s a biography of a dedicated loner, someone who shuns the type of mundane relationships most of us have with friends, colleagues, and romantic partners while at the same time clinging desperately to the rock, movie, and literary stars that he wrote about and befriended. In Avery’s biography, Nelson is a man who deeply believed in the idea of the American hero as a maverick: tough, brave, in touch with the essence of what it means to be human, and, importantly, alone. Nelson died in 2006, just as Avery was beginning to write this book. He died alone.
The second part of the book is a collection of Nelson’s essays; some published, some never finished (one of Nelson’s habits). These writings originally graced the pages of Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, and The Real Paper, among others, and include among them stories about and interviews with the likes of Warren Zevon, Rod Stewart, Patti Smith, the New York Dolls, and Jackson Browne. Nelson’s writing is deeply personal, inviting readers into the relationships he had with the people he wrote about. Avery’s biography similarly invites readers into Paul Nelson’s life, lonely as it was.