Human Relationships Are Hard

9780805097450_custom-b3a2bc2370e0c8efcdd1fb12adcdb78912c1fff5-s2-c85

Dating is probably the most fraught human interaction there is. You’re sizing people up to see if they’re worth your time and attention, and they’re doing the same to you. It’s meritocracy applied to personal life, but there’s no accountability. We submit ourselves to these intimate inspections and simultaneously inflict them on others and try to keep our psyches intact – to keep from becoming cold and callous – and we hope that at the end of it we wind up happier than our grandparents, who didn’t spend this vast period of their lives, these prime years, so thoroughly alone, coldly and explicitly anatomized again and again.

― Adelle Waldman, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.


EA: There’s a line in the book I really like: “Contrary to what these women seemed to think, he wasn’t indifferent to their unhappiness. And yet he seemed, in spite of himself, to provoke it.” When Nate starts these relationships he’s not going out of his way to hurt the other person, and yet it keeps happening. What do you think he should do differently?

AW: I hope that was an interesting predicament to imagine. I tried to come up with a plausible psychology for him because Nate, and some of the men I’ve dated and that my friends have dated don’t hurt other people for fun, but nor do they feel that the chance of hurting someone is so horrible that they should run the other direction. They must be torn between feeling bad but feeling also tempted to keep doing the things that lead, eventually, to heartbreak. I think it’s a predicament; there’s not exactly an answer. I don’t feel like I can say, “This is what’s wrong with Nate.” Human relationships are hard.

EA: He seems to spend a lot of time justifying his actions instead of owning up to them, and batting his conscience down when it rises up to tell him he’s done something wrong.

AW: I think that’s exactly it, that his concern is justifying himself in his own eyes. That’s not quite the right concern; [the right concern] is the effect on other people. I wanted the book to reflect what life is like, and that there are ways in which people are not at all villains or in possession of some very obvious character flaw that makes them difficult to deal with in life. I wanted Nate to be more self-justifying than empathetic; it seems more true to the experience I’ve had in that you don’t come across that many people who are just really bad. I wanted to write in that gray area of life.EA:There’s a line in the book I really like: “Contrary to what these women seemed to think, he wasn’t indifferent to their unhappiness. And yet he seemed, in spite of himself, to provoke it.” When Nate starts these relationships he’s not going out of his way to hurt the other person, and yet it keeps happening. What do you think he should do differently?

–Author Adelle Waldman interviewed by Evan Allgood in the LA Review of Books
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s