- Paperback: 316 pages
- Publisher: 99: The Press (November 15, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0988266253
- ISBN-13: 978-0988266254
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 8.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,548,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Shader: 99 Notes on Car Washes, Making Out in Church, Grief, and Other Unlearnable Subjects
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From the Inside Flap
In 2013, Daniel Nester's estranged father died penniless and alone in a small apartment in Tucson. The news brings back a flood of memories about Mike Nester, an enigmatic truck driver with a genius IQ, who influences Daniel's worldview with conspiracy theories, philosophy books, and something called "The Nester Curse." Told in short chapters, Shader: 99 Notes on Car Washes, Making Out in Church, Grief, and Other Unlearnable Subjects is a semi-comic coming-of-age story of a music- obsessed Catholic boy who searches for a new identity outside of Maple Shade, N.J., a blue-collar town straight out of a Bruce Springsteen song and where Martin Luther King, Jr. was once thrown out of a bar at gunpoint. The town's rough-and- tumble inhabitants, called Shaders, don't suffer record nerds like Daniel gladly, and eventually punk rock and poetry saves his life.
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Top customer reviews
But again, this book is funny as hell. This humor here elevates what could otherwise devolve into a flat dirge of a rough coming of age peppered with justifiable anger at a failed patriarch. This never happens as you read Shader. Nester makes it a point to constantly keep himself in check, never wallowing and always looking at things through the eyes of others whenever possible. Even his father’s.
The title Shader, (rendered in a very 80s, very opening for Dokken at the state fair font for the cover) refers to a self-applied handle that residents of the working class town of Maple Shade New Jersey have taken to using. Most of the story takes place here, with the author, learning about his ever shifting role in the grand cosmos by proxy in South Jersey. There are a few other locations in the book but none make more of an impression than Tucson Arizona. Seeing as Tucson is actually the place where I did a lot of my own growing up it intrigued me to see an East coaster’s take on it. Equally intriguing was my view of Nester as an east coaster at all, knowing that I spent the first 10 years of my life mostly in Pennsylvania.
But that’s another thing that works with Shader, as much as it’s about the particular peculiarities and nuances of Nester’s hometown it’s also about the idea of the “home town.” Anyone who’s ever moved away from the region that they hail from knows the ambivalence you feel toward the spot that made you what you are. Hell, people who put down roots in their hometowns probably feel it even deeper. But Nester nails the odd sense, distinct to those who leave and come back occasionally, of obsession and perpetual mystery about the place you should already know more about than anywhere else. How can there always seem to be more to learn about where you grew up? Or the people you grew up with? Why is it endlessly imperative that we ask our relatives and old school friends about the same old incidents? Are we trying to learn something new? To study every inch of our personal Zapruder films in hopes to finally reach that aha moment that disproves the magic bullet theories which flimsily tried to explain the weirdness of our childhoods? Or do we just want to relive those old days because even when they were the worst of times, seeing as we had more life ahead of us than ever, fittingly, we never felt more alive?
However, there’s one aspect of Shader which some readers might not be able to relate to directly and is one of its most powerful features; the real darkness and brokenness to Nester’s relationship with his father. The man was a truck driver with a genius IQ who encouraged free thinking and philosophical study in his children; he also may have harbored Nazi sympathies and definitely like many fathers of his or any time had some screwed up views on women that their sons would have to discard in order to avoid their father’s fates.
What I liked most about all this is that despite the book revolving around the death of his admittedly damaged but charismatic father, there is a careful effort at making his mother and his sister and their views on all topics pertinent just as compelling and important as his or his father’s own. It’s a human flaw to always be more interested in what we don’t have, hence the popularity of stories revolving around problems with the father and/or absent fathers. But by the end of Shader Nester comes round to focusing instead on what he does have: a mother who loved him and raised him on her own as best she could; and a family of his own which represent a chance to be the father to his own children that he never had himself. The author seems to understand, on both counts, that not everyone can say the same.
You can find Shader here.
The author chose a “note” form to write each chapter that I was dubious about at first, but in reality, it made the book easily accessible. I thought the format would seem like a gimmick, but it made me not want to put the book down. The author is from a blue collar town where being good at school wasn’t terribly popular. If you grew up in a place where, maybe, you didn’t feel like you always fit, you’ll be invested in the author’s story pretty quickly and the writing style will make the pace of the read really easy.
Music, and love of music, plays a part in the story and if you were ever that guy or girl that rifled through record store inventory in a mall or an independent record store (remember those?), you’ll relate to the author very quickly. Despite the differences in musical taste I had with the author at the point of the ‘80’s (and early ‘90’s) he describes, it was still really easy to relate to the author and his experiences.
A more personal aspect of the book I also enjoyed was how the author recounted what it was like living and growing up in the Delaware Valley (i.e.-- Philly, the Philly suburbs, South Jersey, Northern Delaware) during the ‘80’s. Frankly, it felt very true to my experience living in the so called “Rust Belt”.
Ultimately, though, you didn’t have to grow up during the ‘80’s or in the Northeast to enjoy this book. Some of the themes of relationships with siblings and parents are actually timeless and the author is skilled at telling larger, meaningful stories in a small, impactful way.