So the good folks at Henry Holt and Co. are pushing The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. as a book with “the most (frighteningly) realistic male character of 2013” at its center. It's a marketing move, I get that; I'm not knocking the wise choice of catering to machismo men and jilted women with the same book. Such a move can, however, make way for giving the Man-Hater's camp some fodder, so let me step up on my soapbox here for all to see and say “yes, Nathaniel Piven is certainly one very accurate sampling of a male character, but by no means does he embody the definition of male personality. Thank you.”
Nathaniel Piven is sort of a jerk, but I think that's giving him too much credit. I think I was supposed to walk away hating Nate more than I did, because, let's be “realistic” here, the girls climbing all over Nate weren't exactly not asking to have their hearts trampled on. Yes, Hannah was quite likable and I did feel bad for her, but it's almost as if she thought if she threw herself at Nate, he'd respect and love her. Ladies, sex does not equal love. Respect rarely comes from having sex with someone on a first (or second) date. But, I forget, I stepped off my soapbox in the first paragraph.
So, all that being said, the characters were very well written because Adelle Waldman really got into Nate's psyche. And she did a fabulous job of showing the other characters' sardonic perceptions through Nate's eyes. Nate suffers from a mental illness of some kind, but it is never presented as such; rather, his illness is seen as more of a gender issue. Clearly, the author wants you to believe that being a man is a mental... wait, no—forgot I wasn't going there again.
Okay, the book. So I liked the book (despite my aforementioned peeve), but my ability to enjoy it may have had something to do with the fact the whole thing felt more like satire, commenting on the publishing industry and the lives of the literati. And if that's the case, maybe Waldman isn't poking at me as a man, but at the industry in general. If so, I say game on; we all know everything we've ever heard about the unlikable chums in that group is true.
I can't help but wonder if I've just somehow proven that I, too, am like Nathaniel P.