Every so often, I read a book that has me so enraptured that I devour it in a day, pausing only to read the most poignant lines aloud to Radley as I say, again and again, that he really should read it. I've had The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman on my to-read list for months, charmed not only by its gorgeous cover (which I really can't get over), but also by its literary spin.
Her debut novel follows the story of Nate Piven, a Brooklyn writer who's on his way up in the industry. Focusing mostly on his complicated, tangled web of relationships, it's the kind of book that will frustrate and surprise and inspire you, forcing you to step back and think about what it is that you value, what it is that you find fair in love and life. Nate isn't altogether likable, but his perspective — as written by the insanely insightful Adelle — left me reeling. A good book offers some kind of wise, overarching lesson, but a great book challenges the very way you've shaped your own memories.
Adelle offers a glimpse inside a relationship that's slowly, unexpectedly, subtly unraveling. The characters aren't even sure what's happening, sad and slightly paranoid over the fraying of their relationship, and for anyone who's ever tried to pinpoint the why in an ending, her story is hauntingly perceptive.
I loved the book, of course, as a reader, and as a writer, it made me want to step up my game. I'm the sort of person who circles, underlines, and brackets my way through every line as I read, and let's just say this book is absolutely covered in notes. Adelle's language is smart, with even the most heart-wrenching lines delivered with a sort of wry humor, and I found myself smitten with her turns of phrase. She's Austen-like in her ability to capture character, describing people in the most apt and surprisings ways.
One of my favorite things about the story is the play on familiarity versus unfamiliarity — the comfort and the boredom and the thrill of both. There's the "intoxicating unfamiliarity" of someone new, but there's also the fondness of familiarity, the "recognition of camaraderie" after a breakup, as if you're "old war buddies." What a brilliant way to capture a breakup from the other side, and how very true.
True to form, I've searched out any and every interview with Adelle, buoyed by her work and re-inspired with my own writing. Once you've read the book, I recommend you read these, too:
Okay. Done with my fangirl moment.