HITTING SHELVES: Some Hell by Patrick Nathan

Some Hell by Patrick Nathan comes out today! It’s a debut novel about a gay teen’s coming of age in the aftermath of his father’s suicide, and its eloquent honesty will leave you stunned. We asked the author how he’s celebrating.

For the most part, I already have. With all of these milestones—signing with an agent, getting an offer, handing in the final manuscript, holding an ARC, seeing the first reviews, and now walking into my favorite bookstore and seeing it on the shelves—it’s hard to give new meaning to celebration. My liver agrees. But how could I not celebrate these things? You have to give yourself gifts because those from without never have the same value. Only you know what your work is worth, which is why the cliché is true: writing is its own reward.

When I received the offer from Graywolf, I was in Palm Springs. A few days ago, I got a peek at the New York Times review of Some Hell the moment my plane landed in Puerto Vallarta. Both were such immense reliefs that I let myself go. I could do this because I was unobserved. Celebration is contingent upon privacy—particularly at a cultural moment in which joy is less marketable, less shareable, than pain. But why not queer that? Perhaps celebration is a lesson in being oneself entirely rather than oneself erased.

I want to believe things are going to change. Over the next week, in various ways, I will be celebrating that belief. We call them milestones because they cleave distances from one another; the mythos here is that we don’t turn back. But I’ve also learned how easy it is to lose sight of those milestones: how it isn’t long until you’re alone again, awaiting a sign you’re still on the right path, if we’re to believe in paths. For at least a third of my life, I’ve consciously strived toward this moment—being a “published novelist.” What I fear most is what will inevitably happen: once past, this moment will recede, and I’ll have to turn to the horizon and keep my eyes open for the next. But that too is cause for its own celebration. There is, after all, so much to write. If I’m honest with myself, there is nothing that makes me happier, more joyful, than writing. It’s writing that’s helped me reach these milestones without turning back.

How will I be celebrating? In all the simple ways. I’m going to drink. I’m going to bake. I’m going to eat what I’m not supposed to eat. I’m going to surround myself with my friends. I’m going to send e-mails and post tweets fluoresced with emoji. I’m going to walk into bookstores and look at my novel, there on shelves adjacent writers living and dead, writers I admire and those I’ve never read. I’m going to visit cities with other bookstores, other writers, and other things to eat and to drink. I’m going to say thank you. I may buy myself a new scarf. I’m going to spend so much time crying. But most importantly, I’m going to write.

Patrick Nathan’s short fiction and essays have appeared in Gulf Coast, Boulevard, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. He lives in Minneapolis.

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