“Some Hell Of Many”: In Conversation with Patrick Nathan


Part three of Minneapolis-based novelist Patrick Nathan’s Some Hell opens with an account of “the origin” of that phrase which presented itself as its title during the novel’s eight or ninth draft: “I’ve been through some hell,” one anonymous “veteran of waste, pain, and destruction” declares to another at the meeting of “some kind of recovery group.” Overheard by the protagonist’s father, the phrase inspires a notebook entry:

Some hell. Just a little piece? Or, conversely, “that must be some hell you went through,” to designate wonder or fear? Perhaps it was some hell of many hells. Perhaps it would’ve been better if I’d asked. He wouldn’t have found it rude. None of them would. They were there to illustrate, to show the way. (207)

As Nathan reflects in this conversation with fellow Minneapolitan Simon Calder, Alan’s missed opportunity to connect with the anonymous speaker is echoed by his son and wife’s missed opportunities to connect with each other as – following Alan’s suicide – they each scour through his notebooks for revelations regarding his experience of “some hell.” While acknowledging the impossibility of truly sharing stories from the pits of hell into which we cast ourselves and each other, Nathan and Calder’s long-form conversation culminates in a consideration of the promise of acknowledging each pit as “some hell of many.”