Before I read Adelle Waldman's brilliant debut novel, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. I had about as much interest in reading about the hip, young literary types who've colonized Brooklyn as I do in watching Duck Dynasty, that reality show about a family of bearded Luddites who live in the Louisiana swamps ... but Waldman, who is herself a hip young literary person living in Brooklyn, has written such a crisp, comic novel of manners and ideas about her own tribe that I was completely won over. I inhaled this slim novel; now I want to go back and read it again, to savor Waldman's mordant take on work, love and cannibalism among the up-and-coming Brooklyn intelligentsia ... One of Waldman's great achievements is the way she so thoroughly sublets Nate's head so that we see situations, and especially the women, in his life through Nate's own narrow window, curtained by self-regard ... The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. is a sharp and assured tale about a sharp and assured young man, who often acts like a dog.
...the real pleasure of Nate’s story, the aspect of this novel that just blew me away, comes from Waldman closely following his thoughts, the way in which she’s unafraid to break off narration or dialogue and dive into his consciousness. My favorite passages, some several pages long, focus solely on Nate’s brilliant, pathetic, self-conscious (to a degree), and wryly funny thought process ... Nate comes across as a fully realized, vibrant character in part because he’s messy and inconsistent ... And Waldman paints that conundrum in a full, rich palette — the small vanities, the conflicting sensibilities, the binary desires, in short, the complicated and uncomfortable state of contemporary masculinity for an erudite, urbane man in his 30s — with good humor and sentences that are often striking for their visual richness and acuity.
...[an] exquisitely composed debut novel ... The charm of The Love Affairs partly comes from the somewhat flirtatious relationship between Waldman and Nate ... At certain parts in The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. I wished Waldman threw Nate into the closest waste container and gave me more of Hannah. But this is a novel about the failure of the male imagination. Hannah needs to be there as an object of Nate’s gaze, rather than the subject of the book ... With her masterly use of dramatic irony Waldman handles beautifully the confusions and contradictions of Nate. She presents us with the phenomenology of the mind of a young male writer. Her imaginative faculties cross the border of gender and brings precious material to the reader’s side.
...enormously enjoyable ... Like the Hampstead novel, the Brooklyn novel looks to avoid the not-exactly-out-of-leftfield charge of navel-gazing by undercutting its earnest high-mindedness with gentle self-ironising. It’s an approach that serves Waldman well as she both celebrates and skewers the borough’s literati. Her elegant book is quiveringly attuned to the mores of our times ... ngagingly self-aware and pitiably self-involved, Nate is a triumphant creation in his own right, a perfect miniature of an intellectual culture that struggles to privately enact the ideology to which it publicly adheres. But he is also a perfect vehicle for Waldman to explore the women he dates, using his unsparing male gaze to see the ways in which they are complicit in the sociopathy of the New York dating scene ... Much has been made about Waldman’s ability to create a convincing male protagonist, but she should be celebrated, too, for her sympathetic portraits of all the sad, young literary women.
It’s not a comforting book, but it offers a mercilessly clear view into a man’s mind as he grows tired of a worthy woman ... Waldman has written a book of stately revenge, exposing all that is shallow and oblivious about Nate, and men like him. But it’s also a book of beautifully modulated sympathy—for men as well as women ... With her eye for social folly in the streets and restaurants of New York, Waldman resembles Edith Wharton. But where the manners and hierarchies of Wharton’s world are highly codified...Waldman’s characters are set adrift in a world without clear rules, and they torment themselves trying to figure out if they’ve in fact violated some ill-defined conventions of courtship and sexual etiquette ... Waldman’s sketches are warm; like Austen, she has love for her characters, whom she knows better than they know themselves ... a devastating portrayal of the subtle shifts in power that can ruin the blossoming of real love and sympathy between two people ... Even as we feel for Hannah, Waldman holds our anger at Nate in check. The novel is told with elegant detachment, allowing us to organize and judge the eccentricities and deficiencies of its characters ... The pleasures of this novel—its lucidity and wry humor—are mixed with the sting of recognizing the essential unfairness of the sexual mores of our moment: after years of liberated fun, many women begin to feel terribly lonely when realize they want a commitment; men, who seem to have all the power to choose, are also stuck with an unasked-for power to inflict hurt. We’ll have to keep searching for an arrangement that works better, and monogamous coupledom may not be it, Waldman suggests. But she offers no balm, no solution—and tacitly resists a culture that offers sunny advice and reassurance to women.
Waldman returns again and again to the ways of capitalism in her examination of romance in this micro-milieu. What does courtship look like in a world where people worry about breaking up in light of how much they’ve ‘invested’ in a relationship? In which the ‘market rate’ of everyone – women especially – is as unarguable as a number? And how delicious is it to read a story in which neither of the lovers is particularly loveable, just as there’s nothing loveable about their environment ... It’s exciting to come across a book that binds dating and politics. Formally, not just factually, it’s important that the author is female. This is hardly the first book in which a woman inhabits the mind of a man, but here it seems we’re never meant to forget that a woman is behind the writing. Just as we later see Nate outsourcing his conscience to the women around him, it’s as if the novel’s subject – the dissection of the male psyche in the context of dating – has been outsourced to Waldman, a writer who has the talent to write about anything but was given this subject because she is a woman; because the men in her milieu who have written about Nates haven’t looked so closely at the pain these men cause: her book is less an apologia than the case for the prosecution. It is methodical; Waldman has done the work of imagining so we can all understand this sort of guy’s behaviour and mentality. It’s almost a public service.
...debut novelist Adelle Waldman crawls convincingly around inside the head of one Nathaniel (Nate) Piven ... A journalist by training, Waldman may not be breaking news here, but she does show herself to be a promising novelist and a savvy observer of human nature ... It’s to Waldman’s credit then that she uses this straw-man setup to go deeper and pose an interesting question: Is it fair to expect better from an intelligent, evolved man? ... As Nate and Hannah grow closer, Waldman is terrific at describing the halting miscommunications of a relationship. Nate’s self-destructive moodiness and reverse-engineered justifications are especially well drawn ... But Brooklyn feels a bit perfunctory, maybe a little stale (everyone apparently knows everyone in Brooklyn). A fuzzy sameness blurs the descriptions ... Maybe it’s just hard to imagine — being one of the 13 American writers who don’t live in New York — but really: attractive writers? When did they start making those?
Waldman lends an acerbic wit and a remarkable grasp of the male psyche to her rendering of Nate's ill-starred tumbles into the dating pool ... This detestable yet lovable antihero quickly becomes irresistible to us as Waldman's sharp psychological insights yield spot-on portrayals of au courant politesse, cringeworthy personal interactions, and all-too-familiar interior monologues. The upshot: a thoroughly, hilariously of-the-moment tale that marvelously captures what it's really like to be young, smart, and looking for love in the big city—from a new writer to watch.
Nate’s uncertainty about whether he wants to commit is matched by the reader’s uncertainty about whether he deserves [Hannah]. It’s a brilliant depiction of the modern male psyche: Nate’s description of the perfect blow-job, which he envisions with perfect clarity but won’t explain to Hannah, is a tour de force, and I loved his reaction, on receiving an emotional email from Hannah, of wanting either to smash his computer, go for a ten-mile run uphill or read some Schopenhauer. It’s also a razor-sharp dissection of the rigours of the New York dating scene, full of unspoken but cast-iron rules and points lost and gained. Waldman’s prose is clear and elegant, and she can skewer a character in a couple of sentences ... A clever, funny novel which works on both an intellectual and an emotional level, and makes you both condemn and sympathise with its protagonist.
Waldman's portrait of Nate and men of his ilk crackles with prickly wit and wry humour (of the sort Nate might have liked to exercise with his conquests). Her depiction may be cool and detached but her understanding of love in the age of 'latte liberalism' is Austen-flavoured, both intimate and expansive. Nate may recoil at the thought but a woman has rationally explained his inner workings far better than he is able to.
The constant portrayal of Brooklyn in the media has made the New York borough ubiquitous. Despite this crisis of setting, Waldman has an uncanny way of getting into the mind — and cold heart — of Nate. And although the novel is about his love affairs in Brooklyn, this is really a novel that reveals — astutely — how Nate thinks.
Nate is the product of a politically correct education and wants to have sex with similarly educated women in publishing, so he torments himself with scruples that never lead to changed behavior but do produce some of the most sophisticated (and comic) rationalizing since Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert defended child-molesting in Lolita ... Nate’s thinking is so cleverly sophistical that a man might sympathize with him. Several of the women characters do. Even the author seems to! And this sympathy or its near simulacrum is how Waldman succeeds at telling her story through Nate’s point of view ... If Nate were a first-person narrator, he might get away with his good-guy self-defenses...But using third-person narration, Waldman allows Nate just enough rope to hang himself but not enough to swing off to safety like some Park Slope Tarzan ... In the coils of Nate’s consciousness when I first read The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P,, I confess I didn’t fully appreciate Waldman’s intellectual reach and artistic ingenuity, how her novel about one man’s dating history could represent economic, social, moral, and aesthetic issues while maintaining an amusing surface and bemused tone. Thanks to the paperback edition, I’m no longer an obtuse male like Nate. Or at least not obtuse about The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.
It would be just as easy to come away from the novel disillusioned with women as disillusioned with men—but if you do either, you’re missing the point. Unlike Nate, Waldman is smart enough to avoid making generalizations about either sex. The main target of her gimlet eye is not men; it is the very narrow population among whom Nate (and Waldman) (and I) reside: economically privileged, liberal-minded, well-educated, mostly white writers and editors living in gentrifying Brooklyn. It is Waldman’s exquisitely detailed depiction of this very specific demographic, not her depiction of the other gender, that makes The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. a discomfitingly thrilling read ... The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. is less about what happens when our genitalia bump up against each other as what happens when our genitalia bump up against our ideology.
...fiendishly readable ... very few of the novel’s details feel false, and some are eerily on-the-money ... The central question of the novel is whether Nate is responsible for abusing his unsolicited power. And the answer is pretty clear: Yes. Nate is awful. But we only know that because at certain key moments...Waldman tips the scales pretty heavily against him ... actually, I think this generally excellent novel is at its weakest when it is making Nate maximally loathsome, and at its best when, without judgment, it displays a supple understanding of Nate’s predicament—the undeniable fact that he did not 'ask for' his amazing advantages ... Nate is not a cautionary tale; for him, crime pays. Rather, he is a reminder that self-improvement must be self-driven. Only the conscience can make mensches of us all.
The moral urgency and the humane distribution of authorial sympathy are evident everywhere in The Love Affair of Nathaniel P. They give the novel its distinctive timbre and suspense, though not everything discussed and scrutinized in Austenesque detail would get a hearing in nineteenth-century literary fiction ...This is a Brooklyn of rising literary tides, a Brooklyn not even Thomas Wolfe could have imagined his dead imagining. But Waldman imagines it and make it believable and compelling.
Reminiscent of classic realist novels from authors like Graham Greene or Henry James, this delightful debut jumps headfirst into the mind of one man, revealing what he really thinks about women, dating and success ... Nate is a nearly unlikable, yet frighteningly realistic, character—the sort of neurotic, conceited, selfish boor who might have sprung from the mind of Woody Allen ... Much of the strength of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. lies in Waldman’s attention to detail, which builds a completely believable depiction of the New York 20- and 30-something dating scene. Although the novel’s ending unfortunately trails off, leaving readers curious about Nate’s ultimate fate, Waldman succeeds in revealing one man’s narcissistic impulses and shortcomings as a boyfriend.
In this debut, journalist Adelle Waldman sounds like an anthropologist familiar enough with her subject (in this case, the self-serious male writer) to speak his language: The dialogue is pitch-perfect, so much so that the exposition occasionally becomes tiresome by comparison ....Waldman’s characters are distinctive and impressively rendered, so it’s sometimes a shame to be centrally located in Nate’s head at the expense of the supporting characters. As a protagonist, he can be exhausting, while others, such as Hannah, as well as Jason and Aurit—Nate’s oldest friends—offer welcome alternatives. There aren’t any big lessons learned by the book’s end, and some of the action begins to feel a little arbitrary. But all in all, Nathaniel P. is an impressive entrance, sharply written and infused with plenty of authenticity.
...should be a revelation — finally, a takedown of literary jerks by a writer who’s probably dated her share! — or at least a sharp psychoanalysis of how men like Nathaniel P...differ from womanizers of generations past ... What could’ve been an American Psychofor hipsters feels like a traditional romance as Nathaniel attempts to make things work with a fellow writer named Hannah...get over his ex Elisa, and stop flirting with the prospects at the bar. Nathaniel’s fights with Hannah are so realistic they feel familiar, and Waldman captures the casual nature of modern relationships well. (Nathaniel doesn’t date so much as hang out.) But most of his failed relationships boil down to one problem: He just isn’t that into her, her, or her. Same as it ever was, ever since Don Juan. You don’t need a female writer to figure that out.
Waldman’s acerbic debut novel follows and satirizes the young, privileged Brooklyn intellectual ... Ultimately, Nate’s cynical attitude makes The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. too heavy for those looking for a light summer read. At the same time, the relationships the book depicts are too formulaic to be satisfying explorations of how we relate to each other. The novel’s strength is mostly in holding a mirror to a certain self-obsessed type of Brooklyn intellectual with a view of the world that vastly inflates the borough’s own cultural significance. This is a book best read by those who encounter, and are frustrated by, this attitude on a daily basis. For those without a New York City area code, there’s little to cherish.
The characters that populate Waldman’s world are artistic, creative, funny and intelligent—except when it comes to matters of the heart, for they are constitutionally incapable of making long-term commitments. It would be refreshing to find one mature adult.