The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P: How many book reviews does it take to buy a book?

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Oh I’m behind. Woefully behind. Behind on books I want to be reading, behind on writing about the one’s I’ve read. Mostly I’m behind on laundry, but that’s a pile I’m fine to let overtake me. The pile of books… less so.

So here we go with pulling myself out from under it all. Maybe the reason I’ve been stalling is that I didn’t want to have to write terrible things and ruin your Sunday. (It’s fun to imagine I’m being selfless in my not-writing instead of… selfishly doing work and eating).

I chose Adelle Waldman’s The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P for my book club because of its cover (how could you not?) and because it had five hundred (probably closer to fifty) positive reviews covering the back jacket as well as several insert pages. Which had to be pages of irony reviews because the book is about a pretentious author who doesn’t realize that book reviews don’t matter much if you’re an asshole. And that the book (probably Nathaniel’s) (and most certainly Waldman’s) is terrible. And the reviews are nothing but a quid pro quo. Or at least I have to believe that, rather than the idea that no one knows this is a terrible book but me (and the weight of that responsibility would just crush me. Crush me.)

Our titular Nathaniel is incredibly annoying and exhausting to be in the same head space with for 250 odd pages. He’s self-conscious, he’s always looking somewhere else for validation and affirmation, he can’t trust his own talents, he’s jealous of other people’s success. I don’t need to read about a head space I already properly occupy on my own without needing to read. Ha.

We follow him as he dates a couple of women (but not series of women you might expect from the ‘affairs’ title), and mostly as he dates Hannah. He treats her terribly (because of his insecurity) (because she lets him) (because he’s a 30 something writer in New York. I mean Brooklyn. I mean, who cares). It might be interesting to be in Hannah’s head: why does she stay with him? why does she doubt herself so much? why does she keep expecting him to change? But, no. We’re stuck with Nathaniel (and to be fair, I’ve been in Hannah’s head before, and mostly the reasons are “because maybe I can’t do any better,” and that’s a pretty depressing place to spend 250 pages, too). So…

Let me be the one reviewer who will say it: Yawn.

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