Feminist-theory majors, start your master’s theses. This debut delves deep into the mind of your typical ”sensitive” douche bag, a young Brooklyn writer who’s willing to pay for an ex’s abortion but who still admits to being ”the kind of guy women call an a–hole.” Except there’s a catch: The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. was written by a woman. All of which suggests that it should be a revelation — finally, a takedown of literary jerks by a writer who’s probably dated her share! — or at least a sharp psychoanalysis of how men like Nathaniel P. (as the main character is called) differ from womanizers of generations past. What has being ”a product of a postfeminist 1980s childhood and politically correct 1990s college education” taught him about hookups? Will the fact that he has ”learned all about male privilege” prevent him from trying to guess his dates’ cup size?
The short answers? Not much, and nope. What could’ve been an American Psycho for hipsters feels like a traditional romance as Nathaniel attempts to make things work with a fellow writer named Hannah (who’s ”almost universally regarded as nice and smart”), get over his ex Elisa, and stop flirting with the prospects at the bar. Nathaniel’s fights with Hannah are so realistic they feel familiar, and Waldman captures the casual nature of modern relationships well. (Nathaniel doesn’t date so much as hang out.) But most of his failed relationships boil down to one problem: He just isn’t that into her, her, or her. Same as it ever was, ever since Don Juan. You don’t need a female writer to figure that out. B-