When you walk into a bookstore and realize you can get four books for the price of one, you’re probably opening a mental bottle of champagne. However, when you start reading a book and realize you’re facing a four-in-one situation – there’s little reason for celebration.
Call Me by Your Name is a four-in-one book. I’m going to lean heavily on the conclusions my reading buddy and I have reached during our ordeal.
Book One: ADHD
At first, the attention span of the narrator (Elio) seems kind of cool – because he’s a kid and of course he’s gonna be all over the place. But it gets really old really fast. Nothing is finished, and some things are not even given an opportunity to start.
Book Two: Ritalin
In book two there’s actually more than one complete scene. I managed to take a breath during some dialogues and events. Some things that were meant to be cute and lovey-dovey were a bit rapey and Elio has been walking a fine line between an infatuated youth and a creepy stalker from the beginning.
Book Three: Ritalin Overdose
In part three we suddenly have maximum concentration in detail with a bunch of unimportant characters and events which hardly give anything to the story. It only serves to further disrupt the rhythm of the book.
Book Four: What. The. Fuck.
Book Four is painful and melancholic. It’s the only part of the book that jogged my synapses and made me care about Elio and Oliver. Here we find out that Aciman can write. We get to meet an author who can focus and convey depth of feeling that shakes the reader. But we also learn that he is not aware that he had not written a story about a love that transcends time and space and is never to wither.
If their relationship corresponded to the feelings expressed in the last part of the book, Call Me by Your Name would have been one of the most beautiful books I have ever read.
Call Me by Your Name
I did not get the most important thing that’s supposed to define the depth of the relationship Elio and Oliver have. “He’s more myself than I am”, Aciman quotes Bronte. Let’s expand on that:
“Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same. If all else perished and he remained, I should still continue to be, and if all else remained, and we were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger. He’s always, always in my mind; not as a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.”
“till he said, ‘Call me by your name and I’ll call you by my name,’ which I’d never done in my life before and which, as soon as I said my own name as though it were his, took me to a realm I never shared with anyone in my life before, or since.”
I rest my case.
Is this even English?
“I smiled right away, because I caught his attempt to backpedal, which instantly brought complicit smiles to our faces, like a passionate wet kiss in the midst of a conversation between two individuals who, without thinking, had reached for each other’s lips through the scorching red desert both had intentionally placed between them so as not to grope for each other’s nakedness.”
We have two individuals, ok? They are having a conversation and there’s a scorching red dessert between them. The metaphorical desert is there because they want to grope for each other nakedness, but at the same time they don’t want it. The desert is meant to stop them from groping. Now, all you need to do to understand this moment is to imagine a passionate wet kiss in the midst of this “over-the-desert” “nakedness-groping” conversation.
Only then will you understand the depth and meaning of the complicit smiles Elio and Oliver shared. Or not.
The Peach Scene (Elio has sex with a peach, sex defined loosely)
I was going to skip referring to this, but I cannot because this is where the book fails irrevocably. I can shrug off dubious consent. I can explain away pretty much everything that irked me in this book, but I cannot forgive describing a “rape victim” as “loyal” nor can I forgive that the said rape victim was “struggling not to spill what [Elio] left inside”. I know it’s a peach, but dude, you should have used another comparison or you should’ve used your words more carefully.
But I Digress
I was tempted to draw yet another parallel with Moby Dick (it would be my third after Moby Dick, In Space and Of Blindness, Rabies and Whales) but I came up with the “Call Me Ishmael” angle too late and was too lazy to develop the idea having already written this long-ass post. On another note, I’m reading “How to Write Short” so maybe there’ll be less long-ass posts in the future. Although I honestly doubt it.