Existence is this, I thought, a start of joy, a stab of pain, an intense pleasure, veins that pulse under the skin, there is no other truth to tell.
It was really true, there was no longer anything about him that could interest me. He wasn’t even a fragment of the past, he was only a stain, like the print of a hand left years ago on a wall.
The circle of an empty day is brutal, and at night it tightens around your neck like a noose.
She has a mouth like unswept glass—-when you least expect it she cuts you.
I write in the morning and then go home about midday and take a shower, because writing, as you know, is very hard work, so you have to do a double ablution. Then I go out and shop — I’m a serious cook — and pretend to be normal. I play sane — Good morning! Fine, thank you. And you? And I go home. I prepare dinner for myself and if I have houseguests, I do the candles and the pretty music and all that. Then after all the dishes are moved away I read what I wrote that morning. And more often than not if I’ve done nine pages I may be able to save two and a half or three. That’s the cruelest time you know, to really admit that it doesn’t work. And to blue pencil it. When I finish maybe fifty pages and read them — fifty acceptable pages — it’s not too bad.
Last night, time and my body decided to take me to the movies. I saw The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which I took very hard. To an unmoored, middle-aged man like myself, it was heart-breaking. That’s all right. I like to have my heart broken.
I think the average guy thinks they’re pro-woman, just because they think they’re a nice guy and someone has told them that they’re awesome. But the truth is far from it. Unless you are actively, consciously working against the gravitational pull of the culture, you will predictably, thematically, create these sort of fucked-up representations.
I’ve lived in New York since 1979. It was a place that they gave you your anonymity. And not just if you were famous. New Yorkers nodded at you. New Yorkers smiled at you at the Shakespeare & Co. bookshop. New Yorkers would make a terse comment to you. “Big fan,” they’d say. “Loved you in Streetcar,” they’d say. They signaled their appreciation of you very politely. To be a New Yorker meant you gave everybody five feet. You gave everybody their privacy. I recall how, in a big city, many people had to play out private moments in public: a woman sobbing at a pay phone (remember pay phones?), someone studying their paperwork, undisturbed, at the Oyster Bar, before catching the train. We allowed people privacy, we left them alone. And now we don’t leave each other alone. Now we live in a digital arena, like some Roman Colosseum, with our thumbs up or thumbs down.
Statistics don’t explain why it should happen to my personally!
The worst feeling in the world is when I don’t have a book within arm’s reach that I want to pick up more than I want to turn on Netflix, that I look forward to getting on the subway just so I can open it and dive back into that world. I always feel a bit empty when I don’t have something that I’m excited to read.
After finished A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, I wasn’t sure what else could grab me so heavily. Adelle Waldman’s The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P is different in almost every way from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra. While Marra’s book focuses on the gritty survival of civilians in war-torn Chechnya, Waldman’s romp through literary Brooklyn was about the exploration of selfishness and psychoanalysis in our generation’s idea of modern dating. The characters may be indulgent, but they are incredibly intelligent. What saves this book from being condemned as poppy or chick-lit-ty is just how insanely, electrically bright Waldman’s prose and characters are. I was drawn in immediately by. It wasn’t just that Nate and his cast of girls seemed relatable, it was that they seemed so familiar. I saw myself, my friends, my exes, everyone. It’s a spot-on portrait of our current times.
The book began charmingly and full of humor, in quippy little anecdotes about dinner parties and running into ex-girlfriends, and Nate wondering whether he should attempt to embark upon another relationship after so many failed efforts. He sits in his writing chair, toying with a pen in his mouth, looking at the flirty e-mail he just received, knowing that however innocent this e-mail is, if he chooses to engage, it will only end up with (his words) his penis in her mouth - and he doesn’t know if he’s ready to deal with the consequences of that. Nate’s internal monologue is hilariously neurotic, and the book comes alive with charisma not unlike that of first dates, first kisses, and that sly humor and winning personality inflected through the first weeks of any relationship. I wanted to keep reading because I was laughing, and smiling, and remembering that the earlier chapters made me laugh. But as the book goes on, it became increasingly sad. A lump of dread slowly enlarged in my chest as I knew what was ultimately coming. I wasn’t laughing as much, just feeling sad, a little resigned to what was coming, but I was still reading and engaging with the characters, wondering if that lightheartedness would reappear on the pages, if it would bring back the happiness it did in the beginning.
And that is why I think The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P is genius in more ways than one. Not only does it perfectly describe a relationship that all of us will cringe at the familiarity of, but the arc of the book truly recreates the motion of a relationship. It mimics that ecstatic upswing, followed by the crushing downfall, and the reluctance to let it go.