& Review: The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman

theloveaffairsofnathanielp

“As a rule, men want a reason to end a relationship, while women want a reason to keep it going.”

Book Title: The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.
Author: Adelle Waldman
Pages: 237 digital pages
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Date Published: July 16th, 2013
Date Read: July 10th, 2014
Format: ebook on my nook
Cover Love: Love the idea of the silhouettes depicting the people in Nate’s life. It’s eye catching. Promising.
Given Synopsis: “Nate Piven is a rising star in Brooklyn’s literary scene. After several lean and striving years, he has his pick of both magazine assignments and women: Juliet, the hotshot business reporter; Elisa, his gorgeous ex-girlfriend, now friend; and Hannah, ‘almost universally regarded as nice and smart, or smart and nice,’ and who holds her own in conversation with his friends. But when one relationship grows more serious, Nate is forced to reconsider what it is he really wants.

This absorbing and funny tale is set in a twenty-first century literary world alive with wit and conversation. Here Adelle Waldman plunges into the psyche of a sensitive, modern man—who is drawn to women, yet has a habit of letting them down, who thinks of himself as beyond superficial judgment, yet constantly struggles with his own status anxiety. With tough-minded intelligence and wry good humor, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. reveals one particular (though also alarmingly familiar) young man’s thoughts about women and love. ”
What I’d Add: I don’t know who this “sensitive, modern man” is that the blurb talks about. I’ll get into my issues about Nate down there in the review, but this synopsis gives him too much credit.
It’s Sorta Like: If that jerk you dated in college wrote a novel from his point of view about dating you.
My Grade: D
Review: This is what happens in Nathaniel P. : our acerbic narrator, Nate, dates a girl for a few months, and has many quibbling and tiresome “academic” fights with friends he doesn’t seem to like very much. That’s it. You think maybe you’ll go back in time to revisit his past relationships, go over how he met them, what he learned from each girl. But apart from the occasional afternoon musing about an ex, you don’t get to really hear about anybody but Nate.

And Nate is an asshole. A really boring asshole.

I literally like every single other character better than Nate. And a lot of the other characters suck.

Let’s go back up to that synopsis briefly. Nate is supposedly a “sensitive, modern man.” Which is completely untrue. He’s not sensitive in the least. He disparages all women in his life, painfully agonizes over mundane, archaic things about dating, women, relationships, none of which is new. Even worse is the thought that this book “reveals one particular (though also alarmingly familiar) young man’s thoughts about women and love.” Which is technically true, only because it will be familiar to any woman who has ever dated a womanizing asshole. Why is all this lauded as positive?! Without reading the book it might sound promising. After reading Love Affairs , it just points out what a terrible person and character Nate is.

Now, Nate does share thoughts and feeling similar to anyone who dates or has ever dated. He has a lot of the same concerns, selfish thoughts about himself and other people, and dark moments that a lot of us have when faced with the daunting task of trying to find another human being to hang out with and possibly love.

Except that Nate only has these selfish, whiny concerns. They are the only things expressed. And I got sick of it about forty pages in.

Another character nails this issue on the head. In talking to Nate, she says: “I feel like you want to think what you’re feeling is really deep, like some seriously profound existential shit. But to me, it looks like the most tired, the most average thing in the world, the guy who is all interested in a woman until the very moment when it dawns on him that he has her. Wanting only what you can’t have. The affliction of shallow morons everywhere.”

And then, Nate disparages her for a good five pages or so and points out how everything complained about isn’t his fault, really, but hers, and isn’t she just awful for doing and saying that.

Whereas I’m rooting for the other person, 100%, in every aspect of the argument and beyond.

So Nate spends 70% of the book trying to make his whinings about dating and relationships seem valid and worthwhile. The other 30% of the book is Nate interacting with friends at various restaurants or parties, and ALWAYS getting into random arguments about random philosophical/psychological/political topics they may or may not write articles about to sell for freelance gigs. Such as the export of labor as the height of capitalism. Or obesity. Or book reviews.

And seeing as there’s no reason for me to care about these arguments: no common ground is struck, no argument is returned to or becomes a major plot point, and no one is ever in any danger of losing a gig or even suffering for money for some reason (probably because they all seem to have written a book for a huge advance – the plots and characters of which are treated as unimportant, inconsequential).

There’s nothing for me to care about here. No actively stimulating plot. No stakes. Nate is a sexist, boring asshole who thinks he is Someone Important. Women tend to like him (who knows why), but he’s bad at dating, he’s selfish, and apart from his asshole-ness, doesn’t have anything interesting going for him. I don’t care is he gets a happy ending. Or even an unhappy ending. I would not recommend Nate or his boring, boorish story.

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