The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.

Henry Holt and Co.  2013

 

In her debut novel, Adelle Waldman delivers a portrait of the current generation of educated American urbanites with the crisp shrewdness of a Nora Ephron romantic comedy and the perspective of a twenty-first century amalgam of Philip Roth and Saul Bellow protagonists.

The novel is a thorough character study of Nathaniel Piven, the son of Jewish Romanian immigrants and fictional “product of a postfeminist, 1980s childhood and politically correct, 1990s college education.” We meet Nate as he catches sight of a woman who terminated the unplanned result of a past casual tryst and now beholds him in a cutting solution of pain and scorn. He is, at this moment, on his way to a dinner party hosted by his ex-girlfriend in the Greenpoint, Brooklyn apartment he had helped her decorate while they were still together, over a year ago; he will realize, dreadfully, halfway through the meal that she intends to keep him there through the night.

He has quietly just received a six-figure advance from a major publishing house for his first book.

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. chronicles Nate’s writing and romances in the ensuing months as he trudges through a tepid new relationship with a like-minded aspiring writer named Hannah. The story is not compartmentalized, as some might expect, by Nate’s distinct love affairs: it’s messier than that, because life is messier than that—and romance, messier still. Nate’s past relationships surface in sharp remembrances and pensive reverie, flanking each unexpectedly happy moment, each confrontation, and each surge of indignation and guilt experienced in relation to Hannah, whose true-to-life simperings and outbursts read sympathetically but without flattery. In truth, there is something empathetic in all of the book’s characters—including Nate, himself: a man fleetingly tormented at every turn by the unhappiness caused by his unconquerable indifference.

Though set in the Brooklyn literary scene, Waldman’s honest, insightful depiction of modern relationships resonates everywhere. You might be tempted to send a copy to your ex.

Interview

In this three-part interview series, JBC's Nat Bernstein spoke with Adelle Waldman, whose debut novel The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. was recently published by Henry Holt and Co.

An Interview with Adelle Waldman: Part I

An Interview with Adelle Waldman: Part II

An Interview with Adelle Waldman, Part III



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