Writer Nate Piven's star is rising. After several lean and striving years, he has his pick of both magazine assignments and women. When one relationship grows more serious, Nate is forced to consider what it is he really wants. In Nate's 21st-century literary world, wit and conversation are not at all dead. Is romance? Novelist Adelle Waldman plunges into the psyche of a flawed, sometimes infuriating modern man―one who thinks of himself as beyond superficial judgment, yet constantly struggles with his own status anxiety, who is drawn to women, yet has a habit of letting them down in ways that may just make him an emblem of our times.
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.