Jonathan's Reviews > Call Me by Your Name

Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman
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Feb 21, 09

Read in December, 2008

"What I didn’t realize was that wanting to test desire is nothing more than a ruse to get what we want without admitting that we want it."

Testify! So says the wise-beyond-years Elio, an Italian teen who engages in a mental-turned-physical affair with an American grad student, Oliver, summering at his family's seaside home. The book's protagonist, this precious Elio, is sometimes a bit whiny (shades of Amir from Kite Runner here) but provides some stark insights into the mind and emotions of a confused, romantic, ultimately agreeable adolescent. Kudos to author Aciman for how he enters the head of this one.

It's truly something to strike up a book at The Perfect Time in one's life, and that's what happened for me with this novel, which I was initially turned on to by its inclusion on the New York Times' 2007 best-of list. I'd finish it an entire year later, but it was right on time.

The affinity that the two young men in this story have for one another comes across as genuine and respectful and admirable. It's a delicate subject matter to a degree, and Aciman penned this story as though he'd been storing it up inside head and heart for decades. Maybe he had.

Elio's lust at first is replaced by very real care and affection for another, and his coming of age is heartrending and instructional. Recall the first time you fell in love, if indeed you have already, and all the wonderment and pain and joy and squalor that brought to your life. Your psyche. Your viscera. Your very body. It's violent to love someone.

Sometimes there was just a gorgeous stand-alone sentence, as with "Find Cupid everywhere in Rome because we’d clipped one of his wings and he was forced to fly in circles."

Elio's benchmark conversation with his sage father, couched in closing pages here, is probably the best father-son talk I've been witness to, in literature or in life. It's healing, touching. Truly a moving story on the whole, intense and sad and silly and serious, as with most affairs of the heart.

"I look back on those days and regret none of it, not the risks, not the shame, not the total lack of foresight. ... I knew that our minutes were numbered, but I didn’t dare count them, just as I knew where all this was headed, but didn’t care to read the mileposts. This was a time when I intentionally failed to drop bread crumbs for my return journey; instead, I ate them. He could turn out to be a total creep; he could change me or ruin me forever, while time and gossip might ultimately disembowel everything we shared and trim the whole thing down till nothing but fish bones remained. I might miss this day, or I might do far better, but I’d always know that on those afternoons in my bedroom I had held my moment."
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