Gotham teacher Adelle Waldman has just seen the release of her novel The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. The story takes us inside the literary set in Brooklyn, zeroing in on Nate, a writer torn between his sensible and less-sensible selves. The book has garnered the kind of buzz writers pine for, being singled out as a summer pick by People, Cosmopolitan, GQ; getting reviews in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal; and even prompting an interview in the Times.
Here is a glimpse of the opening:
It was too late to pretend he hadn’t seen her. Juliet was already squinting with recognition. For an instant she looked pleased to make out a familiar face on a crowded street. Then she realized who it was.
“Juliet! Hi. How are you?”
At the sound of his voice, a tight little grimace passed over her eyes and mouth. Nate smiled uneasily.
“You look terrific,” he said. “How’s the Journal?”
Juliet shut her eyes briefly. “It’s fine, Nate. I’m fine, the Journal’s fine. Everything’s fine.”
She crossed her arms in front of her and began gazing meditatively at a point just above and to the left of his forehead. Her dark hair was loose, and she wore a belted blue dress and a black blazer whose sleeves were bunched up near her elbows. Nate’s glance darted from Juliet to a cluster of passersby and back to Juliet.
“Are you headed to the train?” he asked, pointing with his chin to the subway entrance on the corner.
“Really?” Juliet’s voice became throaty and animated. “Really, Nate? That’s all you have to say to me?”
Nate took a small step back. “Jesus, Juliet! I just thought you might be in a hurry.”
In fact, he was worried about the time. He was already late to Elisa’s dinner party. He touched a hand to his hair—it always reassured him a little, the thick abundance of his hair.
“Come on, Juliet,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be this way.”
“Oh?” Juliet’s posture grew very rigid. “How should it be, Nate?”
“Juliet—” he began. She cut him off.
“You could have at least—” She shook her head. “Oh, never mind. It’s not worth it.”
Could have at least what? Nate wanted to know. But he pictured Elisa’s wounded, withering look if he showed up so late that all her guests had to wait on him to start dinner, heard her slightly nasal voice brushing off his apology with a “whatever,” as if she had long since ceased to be surprised by any new bad thing he did.
“Look, Juliet, it was great to see you. And you do look great. But I’ve really got to go.”
Juliet’s head jerked back. She seemed almost to wince. Nate could see—it was obvious—that she took his words as a rejection. Immediately, he was sorry. He saw her suddenly not as an adversary but as a vulnerable, unhappy young—youngish—woman. He wanted to do something for her, say something earnest and truthful and kind.
“You’re an asshole,” she said before he had the chance.
She looked at him for a fraction of a second and then turned away, began walking quickly toward the river and the adjacent strip of restaurants and bars. Nate nearly called after her—he wanted to try, at least, to put things on a better footing. But what would he say? And there was no time.
Reprinted by permission of Henry Holt and Co.
You can read more about Adelle and her book here.