A good friend invited me to attend a literary event at BAM, and I agreed, not thinking much of the event itself but happy to spend time with my friend. Eat, Drink, and Be Literary was delightful. A large hall, banquet tables, good company. Two musicians playing quietly on the stage which was soon to be taken by the author, Andre Aciman. I ate, talked with friends and interesting strangers, laughed and drank wine.
And then Mr. Aciman was introduced, and we all turned our chairs to face the small stage to our left. The lights weren’t dimmed, but the expectation was palpable. He rose to stand behind the dias, face half hidden behind the microphone, and with an almost demure manner, began to read from his novel.
We had been warned that Mr. Aciman was the premier authority in the US on Proust. And it quickly became evident why. The sensual analysis that Proust so effortlessly mastered was present in Mr. Aciman’s passages, his profound knowledge of the human heart. He read from three places in the novel, and each time I was captivated by his voice, his words, his story. I am not often given to hyperbole, but it was entrancing. His tone was tentative, warm, kind. His writing was beautiful, and like fingers tracing the path of veins up the delicate inside of your forearm, he followed the development and thoughts of people in love.
I was stunned, staggered, and bought his book from the small bookstore, quickly stepping into line after to get it signed. What could I say to this man of whom I had never heard before this dinner? How could I splutter forth my admiration without having read his novel? I chose to remain silent, expressing in one line my admiration and watching with pleasure as he dedicated the book to me.
The weekend came. I rode the bus up to Boston, and then a few days later, back down to New York. The ground and cities and trees and lakes were covered in snow and ice, but I spent most of the voyage in the Italian Riviera, watching as Elio and Oliver circled each other, fell in love, came apart.
I was deeply, deeply moved by the ending. In such a manner that I have rarely been by a novel. I urge everybody to buy a copy of this book. It is beautiful, from the writing to the poignancy to the wisdom Mr. Aciman displays in portraying life, love, and loss.
Here is a quote, to give a sense of his writing:
In your place, if there is pain, nurse it, and if there is a flame, don’t snuff it out, don’t be brutal with it. Withdrawal can be a terrible thing when it keeps us awake at night, and watching others forget us sooner than we’d want to be forgotten is no better. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything—what a waste!
Ah, me. Have I expressed the true nature of my admiration, have I managed to explain how much this novel affected me? I don’t know. But I am going to treasure my copy of Call Me By Your Name, and can only hope that this review might move another to buy it and experience the same profound pleasure and pain.
Some other reviews:
Bookslut: “The hardest part of writing a review for André Aciman’s powerful first novel, Call Me by Your Name is trying not to turn it into a love letter to the author.”
The New York Times: “It is an exceptionally beautiful book…”
The Washington Post: “The beauty of Aciman’s writing and the purity of his passions should place this extraordinary first novel within the canon of great romantic love stories for everyone.”
Imagine those reviews multiplied through a thousand prisms and mirrors that are the newspapers, magazines and blogs. There is no need to post more; you get the gist.