The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman


As part of preparation for painting a room, along with spackling, sanding, choosing paint, and caulking, I looked around for an audiobook to listen to. A quote from Ron Charles, fiction critic at The Washington Post, caught my attention:  “My daughter just graduated from college, but her education won’t be complete till she’s studied Waldman’s brilliant taxonomy of homo erectus brooklynitis. I’m making her read The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P in exchange for paying off her student loans.” A funny and smart book would be just the thing to make those tedious hours of painting go quickly. Also it’s good to have a book that is not too intense and gripping so that if you miss a line or two, you don’t have to clean your hands and replay what you missed.

The characters are expensively educated ambitious young men and women who live in Brooklyn and want to write or be somehow connected to the publishing industry for a living. Much of the time I found Nate’s thoughts and the bar and party conversations so immature and self-centered as to be improbable.  The women were especially unappealing, made more so by the reader’s rendering of women’s voices with a slight lisp. One example of an overdrawn character was Nate’s encounter with a Pratt student he describes as having low self-esteem. When he indicates a lack of interest in her, she told him her ex-boyfriend was apparently right in telling her she would need breast implants if any guy was going to want her. What?

At one point I began to wonder if this would be too dispiriting to be a distraction for painting trim, but in the end, it was successful for me. Without giving away the plot turns, I will just say that Waldman does identify some human foibles that I recognized and perhaps she became a little more fond of her characters by the end and they became more realistic.

Available at the public library, UVa, and from Amazon.

Adelle Waldman, The Loves of Nathaniel P, Henry Holt and Company, 2013, 242 pages (I listened to the audiobook).

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