NOVEL: The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.
AUTHOR: Adelle Waldman
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2013
I was discussing this comedy of manners with two of my friends over dinner and drinks the other night, and we all agreed that Nate Piven (the up-and-coming young writer referred to in the title) was an incredibly psychologically realistic character. And if you’ve ever been a single woman in New York City, you’ve probably met him. You may have even dated him.
It’s cleverly done, this portrait of the artist as a young cad. He’s confused, he’s lazy, he means well, and he’s simply not honest with the women he gets involved with about his intentions or his emotions; then again, he’s not honest with himself, either. He feels a twinge of guilt now and then, and possibly a bit of cognitive dissonance, as he attempts to reconcile his self image as a good guy with his actual behavior and his status anxiety. He’s not a monster. He’s a decent friend, he cares about social justice, and he’s smart and funny and polite. But he’s never going to be the happily ever after for the “nice and smart, or smart and nice” Hannah, whose heart he carelessly breaks.
It’s a clever novel, and rather funny. Nate’s friend Aurit makes a good defense of her fellow single women (and, perhaps, of the author of the novel for treating its subject with some seriousness) when she gives him a stern lecture while eating arugula pizza at a hip Brooklyn restaurant: “I just hate the way so many men treat ‘dating’ as if it’s a frivolous subject… Dating is probably the most fraught human interaction there is. You’re sizing up people to see if they’re worth your time and attention, and they’re doing the same to you. It’s meritocracy applied to personal life, but there’s no accountability. We submit ourselves to these intimate inspections and simultaneously inflict them on others and try to keep our psyches intact—to keep from becoming old and callous—and we hope that at the end of it we wind up happier than our grandparents, who didn’t spend this vast period of their lives, these prime years, so thoroughly alone, coldly and explicitly anatomized again and again. But who cares, right? It’s just girl stuff.”
That sums it up nicely. It’s a generous story…there are no villains here, just human beings stumbling along, and often getting it wrong. It’s worth reading, and smiling with recognition (and some sympathy) at Nate, and Aurit, and Hannah, and all the rest of them.
RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): 3 Whistles
HOW TO PURCHASE: Amazon
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Lead-In Image Courtesy of Macmillan
Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.
Laura can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org