#FridayReads: ‘New Year’s’ by Adelle Waldman

adelleOne of the great, largely unsung innovations connected with the e-Book is the rise of Kindle Singles and other short pieces of fiction and non-fiction that are available for downloading at very reasonable prices.

Fans of the wonderful 2013 novel, “The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.” by Adelle Waldman will want to download “New Year’s” which shows us the novel’s title character through the eyes of his friend Aurit, during one brief period when she wonders if their relationship might be heading into a real romance.

Waldman has been touring to promote the recently published paperback edition of “Nathaniel P.” and will be at the Westport Library on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. with another dynamite author, J. Courtney Sullivan, whose “The Engagements” is now available in paperback.

“Nathaniel P.” is an act of rather incredible empathy by Waldman, who puts herself (and readers) deep into the head of a young, about-to-be-published male writer, living in Brooklyn, who can’t seem to maintain relationships.

If I did not know the name of the author, I would have assumed the novel was written by a man because of the sympathetic way Waldman writes about the frequent stalemates in male/female relationships.

“New Year’s” views the Brooklyn writer through the eyes of female friend Aurit as she worries that she might be be developing a crush on her platonic acquaintance:

“She could not bear the idea that she might be developing a thing for Nate. The thought was too awful, too humiliating to contemplate. For one thing, crushes — if that’s what this was — are doomed. If feelings are reciprocated, they don’t play out like crushes. Each person senses the other’s interest, and it becomes attraction. Pre-dating. If it feels like a crush, it necessarily means — doesn’t it? — that it isn’t mutual, that someone’s feelings are growing in isolation, disproportionately. Like a cancer.”

Later on another platonic date, Aurit sees that one of the many ironies of this possible crush is that “half the time she wasn’t even sure she liked him.”

“New Year’s” becomes an examination of the differences between romance and friendship and how challenging it can be to combine the two.

Aurit likes hanging out with Nate:

“She could pretty much count on having a good time when she and Nate got together. The rhythm of their conversation was different from (though not better than) the rhythm of conversation with her women friends. She could be more blunt with Nate. With women, the posing of any point of disagreement had to be couched Adelle1very, very carefully and accompanied with elaborate caveats and overt expressions of general sympathy and fellow feeling.”

In between the Nate sections of a tightly written story, Waldman gives us a very full portrait of Aurit’s family and her upbringing — and especially of how her self-image improved during her college years (mostly due to an illness):

“…she arrived at the University of Chicago with her new figure and chiseled cheekbones. No experience could have been so well calculated to make her cynical about humankind than to see how differently it responded to her when she was skinny. Perhaps some lovely blonde could have pulled off a few extra pounds, but apparently, Aurit, with her brownish skin and short hair, could not.”

The push-pull of Nate and Aurit is very finely calibrated by Waldman — and as funny as hell — making this terrific short piece must reading for the many fans of “Nathaniel P.” (and if you haven’t read that novel yet, what are you waiting for?)

Joe Meyers