Sunday, March 27, 2016
A Note To Adelle Waldman On The Love Affairs Of Nathaniel P.
March 28, 2016
Dear Ms Waldman:
So I'm *trying* to tie my thoughts together on just finishing your terrifically acute novel, The Love Affairs.... To do that, I'm trying to fit what I make of its ending into my sense of the whole book.
Where I am is here: Nate rationalizes his sad-making intuition that he's lost something great in Hannah by trying to drown it in process, his life as moving along, with the busyness of later things making almost invisible what's troubling him at any particular time:
...In a few days, it would be as if this night never happened, the only evidence of it an unsent e-mail....
"As if" suggests what he hopes for won't be 100% successful. His "drafts folder" is sort of like his unconscious where as well everything is saved. So I see a relation between this rationalizing and his always obsessively living in his head, in which he can sort out most issues, say his treatment of women, to his moral or simply personal satisfaction by working them out till he's comfortably off the hook of his own concern:
...What he had with Greer was pretty fucking good...he liked his life...he was pleased with the progress on the new book; perhaps that was, for him, more important than anything else. He was, whether or not he deserved to be, happy...
The "perhaps" tells me that his preceding "then he knew" is not the the typical revelatory insight that in so many novels brings "truth and reconciliation." Rather, it and the doubt-nibbling of "whether he deserved it or not" say to me that Nate's "then he knew" is part of the constant flux of his mind and emotions, there for now, prey to change with further thoughts and feelings.
The "Dear Hannah" is a momentary attempt at reconnection with something he intuits is deeply worthwhile. But he can't follow through, just as he couldn't answer her heart felt, totally-letting-her-guard-down long note to him. That inability and all the previous times he cruelly mistreats her but doesn't have the balls to be tactfully honest--he needn't be brutal in that honesty even as he rationalizes that sparing her brutality excuses his cowardice-- with her when she repeatedly pleads with him to be are unforgivable lapses of decency. His unfinished note to Hannah, now a saved draft, is his lapse in an attempt at what might still be great and worthwhile in his life.
Nate shines in his work. He's admirable in his single minded devotion to it, brave in having suffered the precariousness of his free lance life, having lived on so little, having courted insecurity, but pushing ahead regardless. There's been exhilaration in that too, "the exact scent of the air from his bedroom window at dawn, after he'd been up all night working." But that's gone now too, it seems, in the compromised resolution he's found for now in Greer as part of his moving along, buffering "pain--or the pleasure" with a series of new moments and moods making "this sense of loss, of longing...fade, pass from him like any other mood."
Therefore, I see a meant relation between the loss of the exhilaration of what his work has meant to him, a great thing in his life, and his "sense of loss, of longing" for Hannah, seemingly now gone from him. These losses and longings connect to what is of real underlying value. The "pretty fucking good" "happiness" Nate at novel's end thinks himself into feeling is less, I read the intimation to be, than what he's lost and would make him more whole, the emphatic "pretty fucking good" sounding like he's selling himself on something.
Sent from my iPad