January 20, 2014

on my bookshelf: the love affairs of nathaniel p.

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.


Heidi @ Decor & More said... [Reply to comment]

Oh, I just finished The Goldfinch and am ready to dive into another literary novel! This looks like the one... :)
Blessings, H

Kelly said... [Reply to comment]

I'm definitely add this book to my to-read list! Thank you!

look a little closer said... [Reply to comment]

thank you for sharing this. it's happenstance i read your blog today. i've been a reader for awhile, always following along -- admiring photos and wishing nyc had more of that blue sky. i just read your previous post about your relationship and it is lovely. it reminds me that my decision was right.

i am currently going through one of those terrible things called a breakup. it's different than others and a whole slew of other things, but there's definitely been a big question of why. looking for the event where it changed. trying to pinpoint it. i know i can't, that it's probably been slow and just thrown together with the whole thing that has been the relationship.

anyway, what a ramble comment, but i am looking forward to reading your suggestion.

so...thank you. :) that's all.

Allie said... [Reply to comment]

im about a quarter through (thanks to your glowing recommendation) and i wish i had more time to just sit and read it!!! its SO great. plus i was just in brooklyn so i love knowing all the neighborhoods that are referenced. :)