In her debut novel, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., Adelle Waldman takes on a figure all too familiar to humanities students, aspiring writers and anyone anywhere near Brooklyn: the serious, literary young man. Young Werner in Buddy Holly glasses, if you will.
Because, let's face it: as a nation, we're obsessed with smart, well-educated, upper-middle-class white men with literary leanings and the semi-autobiographical novels they write about themselves. Franzen, the Great American Novelist, fits here, as do Philip Roth and the other Great Male Narcissists of post-war fiction, whose characters are often "self-obsessed, self-recriminating, somehow lovable jerk[s]."
Nathaniel, Waldman's subject, is "bookish, ambitious" and a giant bundle of anxious self-awareness, especially in regards to "his stylish torment, his self-seriousness, his dangerous admixture of grandiosity and insecurity, and old fashioned condescension toward women gussied up as sensitivity, his maddeningly irony, his very specific way of treating people badly while worrying about liberal politics," notes Katie Roiphe in her review of the novel for Slate. He's tall, has some game with the ladies, lives in Brooklyn and has just signed a six-figure book deal. He's basically that guy, but a lot more successful.