Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. (Waldman) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
[A] smart, engaging 21st-century comedy of manners in which the debut novelist Adelle Waldman crawls convincingly around inside the head of one Nathaniel (Nate) Piven.... Nate is like a jigsaw puzzle.... [A]fter you’ve invested way too much time, you are going to realize that key pieces are missing. (Empathy? Self-awareness?).... This is also a book about a scene—the Brooklyn literary thing.... But Brooklyn feels a bit perfunctory, maybe a little stale (everyone apparently knows everyone in Brooklyn). A fuzzy sameness blurs the descriptions. ­“Francesca was a prettyish, stylish writer who’d been extremely successful with her first book at a young age.” They come at you in bland waves, these attractive young writers working for important magazines with six-figure deals whose books are long-listed for fairly prestigious prizes. 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?
Jess Walter - New York Times Book Review


Adelle Waldman's debut novel…scrutinizes Nate and the subculture that he thrives in with a patient, anthropological detachment. Ms. Waldman has sorted and cross-categorized the inhabitants of Nate's world with a witty, often breathtaking precision, one eye always on the crude sexual politics of the culture industry…there are many rewards to be had in the elegant, careful way [Waldman] makes sense of Nate's struggle to be both a good person and a sexual person. This book takes seriously the question of romantic compatibility—of why we end up with one person and not another—and foregrounds the question of whether it's a subject even worth paying attention to…There is something beguiling about the very project of teasing out the thought processes of someone like Nate, who so often cuts and runs, avoiding spelling things out when feelings get complicated.
Maria Russo - New York Times


[A] pitch-perfect debut… In the demure tradition of the comedy of manners, Ms. Waldman is rarely mocking or mean-spirited.... Full disclosure: The setting of this novel is one with which I'm cringingly familiar. But even if you find hipster Brooklyn alien territory, Ms. Waldman's surgical skewering of its pretensions and hang-ups is a comic performance you shouldn't miss.
Wall Street Journal


Bright young men, do you feel that chilly wind of exposure? Somehow, Adelle Waldman has stolen your passive-aggressive playbook and published it in her first novel…Waldman offers a delectable analysis of contemporary dating among literary wannabes. You might think it'd be easier to find a parking space in Manhattan than to say anything new about that subject, but this dark comedy delivers one prickling insight after another…Neither chick lit nor lad lit…Waldman has captured a whole group of privileged people who've been seduced into believing that their choice of a spouse is just one more consumer purchase—like an expensive coffee maker, something to be considered according to its pros and cons and then constantly reevaluated for how much it satisfies the original expectations.
Ron Charles - Washington Post


Incisive and very funny… This is an impressive book, full of sharp and amusing observations about urban life, liberal pieties and modern dating—that minefield of "intimate inspections" that often yields more loneliness than romance. Though Nate has an archetypal quality—his mix of lofty ideals and poor behaviour is not uncommon among the triumphant ex-nerds of literary Brooklyn—Ms Waldman has skilfully rendered him both fascinating and sympathetic. He is a man of his age, though his strengths and weaknesses are timeless.
Economist


Fiendishly readable… Most importantly, Waldman gets the big detail right: When it comes to women, Nate’s "clamorous conscience" comes into conflict with the exercise of his natural advantages as a single, successful, attractive heterosexual man in a sexual economy that, for him, is very much a buyer’s market…. He is misogynistic and ashamed of his misogyny.
Marc Tracy - New Republic


Although the novel is about his love affairs in Brooklyn, this is really a novel that reveals—astutely—how Nate thinks…. The book is an exacting character study and Waldman an excellent and witty prose stylist…. [Nate] is a frog in a wax tray, sliced open and pinned back, his innermost private thoughts on display for inspection by the reader…. One must read the magical ending to understand that although his thoughts on women will leave many outraged, his dissected frog's heart still beats.
Jennifer Gilmore -  Los Angeles Times

While Lena Duham's TV series Girls and Noah Baumbach's film Frances Ha have reaffirmed Brooklyn's status as the capital of hipster cool, Waldman's debut novel offers a more critical look at the district's arty milieu... Her writing displays an awareness that the Brooklynites' middle-class problems don't amount to a hill of fair trade coffee beans in the real world. This is brilliantly observed stuff.
David Evans - Financial Times (London)


Every so often... a novel comes along that actually deserves the hype. Adelle Waldman's outstanding debut is one of these.... The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. is really something much darker, funnier, and more profound. It fixes for all time on the page a very particular type of man— the contemporary up-and-coming literary intellectual. And it isn't a pretty sight.... Psychologically astute, subtle, funny and whip-smart, this is a novel that anyone interested in how we live now should read.... With the insinuating sharpness of a stiletto blade, Waldman opens up Nate's interior to show us the mess inside.... she pieces together a portrait of contemporary upper-middle-class manhood. The level of insight is bracing... On every page of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. there is something that gives pleasure— the prose is razor-sharp, the characters in all their pretentions are lovingly skewered. This month's hot novel it may be, but this is a book that will bear repeated readings; funny, angry, subtle and sad, it is the debut of a novelist who's already the real, achieved thing. Highly recommended.
Sunday Business Post (London)


The best debut novel of the summer.… It’s hard to know whether Adelle Waldman’s portrait of Brooklyn’s sad young literary men in The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. is meant to be scathing satire or plain realism, but frankly, you won’t give a damn…. Waldman’s gift is to give voice to the minute calculations and fickle desires of modern manhood as we cringe and read just one more chapter, and then another, and then another.
Kira Henehan - GQ


Brooklynite Nathaniel Piven, “a product of a postfeminist, 1980s childhood,” is the modern male...[who] hates feeling guilty over the many women he hurts ... and [has earned] a rep for being “the kind of guy women call an asshole.” .... An acute study of present-day struggles with intimacy, Waldman seems to suggest that love is too constricting a tie for the 21st century, and that, perhaps, a different kind of connection might better define the contemporary couple. She navigates the male psyche and a highly entertaining hipster mindset, and sneaks in an unexpected, understated ending that brings this pulpy read a satisfying poignancy.
Publishers Weekly


Nathaniel P. is...[t]he sensitive, artistic sort who secretly turns out to be passive-aggressive and adverse to long-term commitment.... Waldman's debut ...makes this character the protagonist, and she builds such a solid point of view for her creation that the reader is drawn in despite the somewhat depressing subject matter.... Tales of relationship struggles are common, [but] Waldman takes a cliche and turns it on its ear.... For fans of relationship literature and those who prefer their summer reading sour instead of sweet. —Julie Elliott, Indiana Univ. Lib., South Bend
Library Journal


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.
Megan Fishmann - Bookpage


Nate Piven's affairs are convoluted, to say the least, and some of his relationships seem to come right out of Seinfeld episodes.... Throughout the narrative, Waldman also flashes us back to Nate's earlier girlfriends, pals and hookups. 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.
Kirkus Reviews




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