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[326] Call Me By Your Name – André Aciman

” You are the only person I’d like to say goodbye to when I die, because only then will this thing I call my life make any sense. And if I should hear that you died, my life as I know it, the me who is speaking with you now, will cease to exist. [240]

Having grappled with romantic loss and have yet fully recovered make me hesitate to read this book, for fear of the operatic sentimentalism and the unrequited love of the story will provoke those over-wrought nerves and sore wounds. But I’m glad I have read this book, which does give me hope and comfort in times of therapeutic nourishment. It reminds me how I can rip out so much of myself to be cured of the hurt faster than I should that I risk going bankrupt and have less to offer the next person who stumbles on my path. Never has a book spoken so profusely the truth of my mind like Call Me By My Name does. On matter of love and relationship, especially unrequited love, which leaves one party completely helpless to cope with the loss, this novel truly brings to life how one’s fear and desire are busy negotiating in the heart.

What if it came and didn’t let go, a sorrow that had come to stay, and did to me what longing for him had done on those nights when it seemed there was something so essential missing from my life that it might as well have been missing from my body, so that losing him now would be like losing a hand . . . without which you couldn’t possibly be you again. [214-215]

So hit home, rendering so bare and raw a gamut of contradicting emotions. This book is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that flourishes between an adolescent lad, Elio, and a summer guest, Oliver, at his parents’ cliffside mansion on the Italian Riviera. Unprepared for the consequences of their (secretly mutual) attraction, each feigns indifference at first, although Elio is so much more smitten at the very beginning. The first sight of the philosophy scholar, seven years of Elio’s senior, promises instant affinities.

I knew that the sofa awaited me in an hour or so. It made me hate myself for feeling so hapless, so thoroughly invisible, so smitten, so callow. Just say something, just touch me, Oliver. Look at me long enough and watch the tears well in my eyes. Knock at my door at night and see if I haven’t already left it ajar for you. Walk inside. There’s always room in my bed. [59]

That the book is told from 17-year-old Elio’s perspective accentuates the contervailing emotions that accompany the attraction: love at first sight, fear, frustration, carnal desire, shame, self-loathing, consummation, bliss, and passion. It’s a coming-of-age story with an innocence that is very loyal to one’s heart feeling.

Watching him wearing my clothes was an unbearable turn on. And he knew it. It was turning both of us on . . . It was porousness, the fungibility, of our bodies—what was mine was suddenly his, just as what belonged to him could be all mine now. [142]

Call Me By Your Name is an elergy to human passion and intimacy. For what Elio and Oliver discover during the six weeks in Italy is the one previous thing both fear they may never find again: true intimacy. Intimacy is what happens when two beings become totally ductile that each becomes the other. This book doesn’t explore the reason behind this consummate affair nor does it justify the outcome. It gives us a story of two men who have found total intimacy that marks their life, regardless of the paths they have taken afterwards.

247 pp. Hardback [Read/Skim/Toss] [Buy/Borrow]