What is it about summer that it is always associated with romance?
While the heat and abundance of exposed skin may be to blame, there is a certain mystique to that sultry time of year that irresistibly draws anyone to experience the joys and aches of a summer liaison. In André Aciman’s debut novel, “Call Me By Your Name”, what starts off as a typical seasonal infatuation evolves into an intensely beautiful love story that is at once exultant and heartbreaking.
Elio—seventeen, intelligent, and deliciously gauche—narrates the entirety of the novel as he recounts “that summer” when Oliver—twenty-four, handsome, and shamelessly cavalier—enters his life. With a famous expatriate professor as his host and a guest to an eccentric quasi-Italian household, the scholarly Oliver sets out to complete his work on Heraclitus to be translated in Italian for the next six weeks.
Set in the decidedly idyllic backdrop somewhere in the Italian Riviera, these two young men embark on a tantalizing journey of self-discovery marked by unwieldy conversations, strong physical flirtations, and Elio’s rapacious commentary of his burning desires towards the summer houseguest as his fascination evolves into something much more profound.
As Oliver’s brief tenure in Elio’s cliffside mansion dwindles by the day, both experience the agonizing torture of mixed signals, angst, and confusion that comes with first love. The affair is engaging and thrillingly erotic from their initial encounter, the inevitable consummation of their friendship, until their bittersweet separation in Rome as the summer draws to a close. The remainder of the story then deals with the aftermath that Elio faces in the wake of his relationship with Oliver when they once again cross paths—this time, as mature men in the age of new technology—to bring the novel to a decidedly touching finale.
What is astonishing about this book is the highly elegant and precise writing style of Aciman that steers this work away from the run-of-the-mill gay romance novels with gratuitous scenes of pornography that it reminds you of the works by Michael Cunningham, E.M. Forster, and Anne Rice (minus the supernatural element, of course). Instead, he deftly executes a subtle astuteness in the narrative that one can’t help but be absorbed by the sheer forcefulness of the words. Even the fate of mundanely inanimate things like a ripe peach or a pair of worn bathing trunks become sweetly perverse yet spellbinding in Aciman’s approach of storytelling. Trust me when I say that after reading this book, you will never look at peaches or swimming trunks in the same way ever again.
You can feel the stomach-churning longing Elio has for Oliver, you shiver every time their skin brushes against the other, and you swoon whenever they declare their undiluted ardor in words so deceptively simple. The reason why this is because you know what it is like to have experienced such things with the first person who had a deep influence on your love life. And while it is a relatively slim novel, Aciman delivers a heart-stopping masterpiece in just 256 pages. Indeed, there is nary a weak page that can be found in the book. Haunting, elegiac, and proudly hyperromantic, “Call Me By Your Name” will brutally remind you of the beauty and pain of an ephemeral passion that burns as bright as the summer sun.
Choice excerpt from “Call Me By Your Name”:
The dream had been right—this was coming home, like asking, Where have I been all my life? which was another way of asking, Where were you in my childhood, Oliver? which was yet another way of asking, What is life without this? which was why, in the end, it was I, and not he, who blurted out, not once, but many, many times, You’ll kill me if you stop, you’ll kill me if you stop, because it was also my way of bringing full circle the dream and the fantasy, me and him, the longed-for words from his mouth to my mouth back into his mouth, swapping words from mouth to mouth, which was when I must have begun using obscenities that he repeated after me, softly at first, till he said, “Call me by your name and I’ll call you by mine,” 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…
Call Me By Your Name : A Mixtape
Mirroring the book’s themes of summer, passion, youth, nostalgia, coming-of-age, heartbreak, self-examination, forgiveness, and sanguinity, these diverse songs suitably reflect on the brief yet unashamedly intense relationship of Elio and Oliver.
Download. Read. Listen. Enjoy.
Dido – “Sand In My Shoes”
I’ve still got sand in my shoes
And I can’t shake the thought of you
I should get on—forget you
But why would I want to?
I know we said goodbye
Anything else would’ve been confused, but I wanna see you again…
Katy Perry – “Teenage Dream”
You make me feel like I’m living a teenage dream
The way you turn me on—I can’t sleep
Let’s run away and don’t ever look back, don’t ever look back!
My heart stops when you look at me
Just one touch, and baby I believe this is real
So take a chance and don’t ever look back, don’t ever look back…!
Damien Rice – “Volcano”
What I am to you is not real
What I am to you—you do not need
What I am to you is not what you mean to me
You give me miles and miles of mountains
And I’ll ask for the sea…
Calvin Harris + Florence Welch – “Sweet Nothing”
So I put my faith in something unknown—I’m living on such sweet nothing!
But I’m tired of hope with nothing to hold—I’m living on such sweet nothing!
And it’s hard to learn, and it’s hard to love when you’re giving me such sweet nothing!
Sweet nothing, sweet nothing—you’re giving me such sweet nothing!
And it’s not enough to tell me that you care
When we both know that words are empty air
You give me nothing, nothing…!
Tiago Iorc – “Nothing But A Song”
Maybe we’re losing all reason in our silly fights
Maybe this time it’ll seem right
I wanna tell you ‘bout the day we first met
And how I feel when you’re holding me tight
And oh, and how you’ve changed my life…
Ellie Goulding – “Lights”
I had a way then, losing it all on my own
I had a heart then, but the queen has been overthrown
And I’m not sleeping now—the dark is too hard to beat
And I’m not keeping now the strength I need to push me
You shine the lights that stop me—turn to stone!
You shine it when I’m alone
And so I tell myself that I’ll be strong, and dreaming when they’re gone
‘Cause they’re calling, calling, calling me home
Calling, calling, calling home!
You shine the lights that stop me—turn to stone!
You shine it when I’m alone…
The Bravery – “Ours”
This time is ours!
If I could hold this moment in my hands
I’d stop the world from moving
I’d stop the clocks from turning
This time is ours!
Inside a frozen memory of us
And we are motionless, motionless…
Gotye + Kimbra – “Somebody That I Used To Know”
You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness
Like resignation to the end—always the end
So when we found that we could not make sense
Well, you said that we would still be friends
But I’ll admit that I was glad that it was over…
Owl City – “The Saltwater Room”
Our time together is just never quite enough
When you and I are alone, I’ve never felt so at home
What will it take to make or break this hint of love?
We need time, only time
When we’re apart, what ever are you thinking of?
If this is what I call home, why does it feel so alone?
So tell me darling, do you wish we’d fall in love?
All the time, all the time…
Schiller + Anggun – “Always You”
Went from the east to west
With stories to erase
From my heart, my fingers, and my face
I’ve tried my very best
No matter wherever I am
There’s nothing I can do
Cause my love has only one name
And it is you…
Alanis Morissette – “I Remain”
How crass you stand before me with no blood to fuel your fame
How dare you wield such flippancy without requisite shame
Your very existence becomes my sacred mission’s bane
You bow to kiss my hand, and I ignore ignited flame
How I’m moved to meet you
Untouched, I do remain…
Adele – “Someone Like You”
You know how the time flies
Only yesterday was the time of our lives
We were born and raised in a summer haze
Bound by the surprise of our glory days
I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited
But I couldn’t stay away—I couldn’t fight it
I’d hoped you’d see my face and that you’d be reminded that for me, it isn’t over…