“Find Me” Is a Shallow Sequel to “Call Me By Your Name”

The novel “Call Me by Your Name,” by André Aciman, was revealed in 2007 and tailored right into a film in 2017. It conjured a swoony romance between two younger males, Elio and Oliver, in an Italian seaside city. Then it resulted in heartbreak as mild because the solar slipping beneath the ocean. The e-book established Aciman as a poet of the drunken senses; this journal described him as an “acute grammarian of desire.” The movie, which grossed 41.9 million {dollars} on the world field workplace, seduced each viewers and critics, who declared it “ravishing,” “a lush and vibrant masterpiece.”

Luca Guadagnino, the film’s director, and Timothée Chalamet, one among its stars, have been rumored to be among the many many individuals clamoring for a sequel to the supply textual content. That sequel has arrived, within the type of “Find Me,” Aciman’s new novel. The e-book picks up a decade or so after the primary motion of “Call Me by Your Name,” with Samuel, Elio’s father, on a prepare to Rome to go to his son, who has turn out to be a classical pianist. En route, Samuel meets a twentysomething girl with whom he conducts an affair. The angle switches to Elio, who stays haunted by recollections of Oliver whereas pursuing Michel, a lawyer practically twice his age, and to Oliver, now a professor in the US, who’s throwing a celebration along with his spouse and lusting after two company. Then it’s again to Elio, in a coda that doesn’t a lot sink softly underneath the waves as crash, like a drunk on a scooter, into the beachside ice-cream stand.

The longest part belongs to Samuel and his paramour, Miranda. Miranda is model-gorgeous however dressed carelessly; her demeanor is a mixture of wryness, impetuousness, and tenderness. She takes black-and-white pictures and makes forgettable observations that immediate Samuel to marvel at her brilliance. The admiration is mutual. Inside twenty-four hours of assembly Samuel, Miranda is sobbing in his mattress, entreating him to have her child (“I want it from you and no one else—even if we never see each other after this weekend”), and providing to tattoo a lighthouse (she calls his penis “my lighthouse”) onto her genitals. Samuel, in the meantime, is a divorced scholar who believes that he has missed his probability at love; he’s fast with what are obtained, throughout the world of the e-book, as acute remarks, except he’s post-coitally outsourcing his eloquence to the German Romantics. (“ ‘Where did they invent you?’ I said when we were resting. What I meant to say was I didn’t know what life was before this. So I quoted Goethe again.”)

These characters are so unreal—she a moist dream, he a cipher—that any specificity in any respect turns into embarrassing, as if Aciman have been revealing his specific turn-ons. And but we proceed to be served particulars, usually by way of Miranda’s hero worship. This factors to an even bigger drawback with the e-book: since the entire narrators are in love and work together primarily with their lovers, the one opinions we ever hear expressed about these individuals are sweaty and rapturous. The result’s a novel that feels besotted with its characters regardless of scant proof of their charms. The intercourse writing itself is unlucky. If Samuel’s penis is a lighthouse, Miranda’s vagina, we’re informed, is a fig. “This is who we’ll be,” Miranda guarantees, “all cum and juices.” By no means has a whirlwind romance felt so interminable.

The second part, about Elio and Michel, reprises the Might-December dyad. The 2 males meet at a classical-music live performance and start to flirt, probe, and converse wistfully about their fathers, who taught them music. Michel’s used to sneak downstairs and play the piano at night time; Michel realized to say, within the morning, that he’d dreamed that the piano had performed itself. Is that this plangent or preposterous? (What individual thinks that his household received’t discover him training the piano whereas they’re making an attempt to sleep?) Michel maintains a civil but distant relationship along with his personal son, which pains him, as a result of he longs for somebody with whom he can reminisce warmly about his dad. However maybe Elio can fulfill that perform. The overlapping male bonds, the echoing motifs—a hand positioned on a face, the older lover “holding back”—trace at Aciman’s formal ambition, as he drops hints about “destiny” and the looping nature of time. “Fate,” says Michel, with the e-book’s attribute subtlety, “has strange ways of teasing us with patterns.” But it surely’s exhausting to understand the magic of coincidence when Aciman has lined up all these particulars himself.

The Oliver part is likewise seeded with faulty epiphanies. Oliver finds himself drawn to 2 social gathering company, a person and a lady. In actual fact, he’s drawn to the Elio in them; collectively, they add as much as the boy he left behind. (“I couldn’t care a whit about their lives,” he displays.) As Oliver submits to a fantasy of Elio, of his “impish laugh” and “jeering languor,” Aciman once more appears to be positing one thing just like the fungibility of all individuals who fall outdoors the bounds of a lover’s narcissism. The e-book desires to indicate that folks can end one another’s tales: that Elio would possibly function Michel’s estranged son, or that Oliver’s company would possibly stand in for Elio. This instrumentalization is supposed to really feel poignant, however it comes off as callous. Take into account Samuel and Miranda of their lodge’s breakfast space:

The personnel wearing white jackets the following morning have been busy
confabulating and joking with each other whereas tacky loud music was
taking part in within the background. “I hate background music and I hate their
yapping,” [Miranda] stated, indicating the assistance. She didn’t hesitate in
turning round to one of many waiters. . . . Instantly they obtained quiet.

“I’ve grown to hate this hotel,” I stated, “however I come right here every time
I’m in Rome due to the balcony connected to my room. On heat days,
I really like sitting underneath the umbrella to learn. Later within the night I’ve
drinks with pals both on my balcony or within the bigger terrace
upstairs above the third flooring. It’s merely heavenly there.”

The scene traps all of “Find Me” in amber. A glimmer of the surface world is shushed to make room for drivel about one’s leisure habits. Aciman relays the reprimanding of the assist in the identical spirit with which he describes Miranda’s magnificence or Samuel’s discernment—that’s, as an indication of character. Aciman desires us to approve of his sweethearts in order that we will take part of their co-enchantment. This labored in his earlier novel. The leads in “Call Me by Your Name” have been self-conscious and soulful, however in addition they scanned as candy and curious; theirs was the insufferability of youth. Their universality, too, fashioned a part of their enchantment: exactly drawn, with delicately shaded interactions, the Elio and Oliver of 2007 made for a convincing portrait of old flame. That universality has fled from “Find Me,” which feels alternately too obscure, too offensive, and too ridiculous to do something however place one’s empathic creativeness on a rack till one surrenders to at least one’s personal contempt.

But it’s fellow feeling that these lovers appear to need above all. Aciman’s characters idealize a state of attunement. “What never ceased to amaze me and cast a halo around our evening was that ever since we’d met, we’d been thinking along the same lines,” Elio says, about Michel. In psychology, attunement, which is usually cited as a prerequisite for wholesome love, denotes a capability to intuit what the opposite wants, and to interpret indicators in the best way that they have been supposed. The relationships in Aciman’s novel, be they transient or lasting, are marked by an affinity that tends to deepen by way of dialog, although it requires no phrases. It’s all the extra ironic, then, that this reviewer’s expertise of “Find Me” was one among such profound disattunement. The e-book desires to be intimate, profound, however it reads as glib and distant, impervious to precise feeling. Certainly, the textual content appears to not account for an viewers. An apter title could be “Get Lost.”

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Katy Waldman

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