A late bloomer where girlfriends were concerned, Nate, at age 30, has slowly begun to notice that the girls he’s dating begin to expect a little more from him than he wants to give a little sooner than they did before. He, on the other hand, after years of temping and living like an impoverished student, is starting to notice the effect his book contract has had on the women he runs into at book events and in the local hangouts of his generation’s literati. For Nate, playing the field has just become a whole lot easier and more pleasurable.
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. explores the world of male-female relationships in the context of the contemporary Brooklyn literary scene, with all its perils and pitfalls. Nate is a Jewish guy from somewhere else who came to New York to be a writer, like so many others before him. The author says in an interview that she intended The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. to be a response to novels like Goodbye, Columbus. While reading, I was reminded of Philip Roth’s early books, which the sexist perspective of didn’t bother me when I read them in my twenties; female characters in The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. are portrayed from the perspective of the male characters or narrators who desire them or don’t desire them.
To Nate, a serial monogamist with his short trail of exes, it is clear that he is more respectful of women in general than his friends are and puts more effort into a relationship than they do. He honestly can’t fathom why one of his recent exes calls him an a**hole when she accidentally runs into him on the street at the start of the novel. To most readers, however, it’s likely to be quite clear. This disconnect between what the reader knows and what Nate – a very smart guy who went to Harvard – knows, is where much of the humor in the books stems from, but also most of the painful moments.
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. follows Nate into the living rooms and bedrooms (in Nate’s tiny Brooklyn studio, the two are the same) of a certain set of young women in New York, and reveals what Nate – to all appearances a decent-looking, nice, smart guy (now with a book contract!) – is thinking. To young women in New York coming up on thirty or already there – like Juliet, Elisa, and Hannah – Nate’s innermost thoughts could be taken as a call to arms or a good reason to move somewhere else!
From a Gawker interview with author Adelle Waldman, herself a freelance journalist and book reviewer who lives in Brooklyn:
“There was a way in which the book was a response to a certain type of perception I had as a woman that there are these guys that aren’t consciously sexist but take for granted that their intellectual peers are other men, that other men are the ones they’re competing with. Writing a book is a way to challenge that.”
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.
Henry Holt & Co.
July 16, 2013
Disclosure: I received an advance reading copy from the publisher, Henry Holt, an imprint of Macmillan, through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program.