Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
Given that I was obsessed with this film and saw it twice in Austin over the holidays (come to Geneva already!), it was no surprise that I was completely enamored with Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman. I love this book so much. Why didn't I know about this book before the movie? How is it that the book and the movie are so wonderful?
Quite quickly, the film may have become my favorite of all time. The book is something else though - otherworldly, scholarly, anticipatory, pleasurable, heartbreaking, intuitive, emotional, veritable. Please go and read this book if you have loved the film. Understand what it was before it became Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet (as magnificent as they are). It is a story for everyone who has known a great love, or desired one. It is for everyone who loves books, poetry, music, language, philosophy and, undeniably, the Italian Riviera. Take me to this world you've so perfectly created, Aciman.
I've truly been geeking out, to the degree that, when I finished the book this week, I wrote Aciman a love letter, addressed more to Call Me By Your Name than Aciman himself. As a professor at university, it wasn't hard to find his email. I hope I didn't spook him. I've never done that before.
This story is about the lust and shame that draws a teenage boy, Elio, and his father's summertime apprentice, Oliver, into a month-long back-and-forth that sends both Elio and the readers into madness and desire, wanting to understand, afraid but ever-bolder to reach out and risk. Eventually, this is what happens, and, from this dance of their hyper-intellectual mind and bodily attraction, springs something far deeper than lust, but love itself. And a love like no other. While fleeting, actions only a summer long, it tethers them their whole life. Call me by your name and I'll call you by mine, because we are the same, because it can never not be us anymore, because we are bound.
One of the most notable scenes in the film was taken almost word for word in the book, in the moment between father and son, when it becomes clear that Elio's academic father knew a bit about what was going on between Elio and Oliver after all. His message, beautifully delivered, is a lesson to remember. In broken assembly, do not forget: "Nature has cunning ways of finding our weakest spot... 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!... Remember, our hearts and our bodies are given to us only once... Before you know it, your heart is worn out and, as for your body, there comes a point when no one looks at it, much less wants to come near it."
The pain of losing love like this is nearly unbearable, but how could it not be worth the risk, when love like this is so rarely felt, treasured, embalmed in time. It is a reminder to youth who shell up too soon, that we only have what's left, and we mustn't lock ourselves away in the catacombs sooner than death calls. There isn't room for complacency in a world this rich with hope, pain, desire and love.
I'm sure I can't really write about this book coherently yet. I have not composted it, not fully absorbed everything it means to me and every way it touched me. It's because it is so powerful that I can't help but publish this. Go. Read. Soak it in. Believe it can be yours.