“I feel like you want to think what you’re feeling is really deep, like some seriously profound existential shit. But to me, it looks like the most tired, average thing in the world, the guy who is all interested in a woman until the very moment when it dawns on him he has her. Wanting only what you can’t have. The affliction of shallow morons everywhere”
It’s hard to work out what to make of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. On the one hand, it’s an acutely observed, spot-on description of a certain kind of man who is self-absorbed but utterly lacking in self-awareness. On the other hand, the central character is so irritating and unlikable that at times it’s hard to engage with. Of course, the fact that he’s so unlikable only goes to demonstrate how good the writing is.
Nate spends his time cultivating a hip intellectual image, cruelly criticising all those who fail to live up to his impossible criteria. He critically assesses the women he meets, picking them apart, seeing if they manage to meet his checkbox list of what a woman must be in order to qualify to be his partner. His inability to see women (and indeed other men, for he is just as cruel to his friends) as people, rather than merely object-like beings that may or may not serve some purpose in his life, becomes increasingly grating. It took me a while to get into this book, simply because I found I not only didn’t care about Nate, but I didn’t want to care about him. But in the end it is a well-written book, and the voices found in it felt very real. It’s that tension – the dislike I felt for Nate, but the appreciation I had for a writer who could so accurately capture a person like this without reducing him to a 2-d caricature – that kept it interesting.
That’s book one of the readathon finished. Next up: The Machine.