Elio lives in a sort of paradise. He’s the 17-year-old son of an Italian academic, living on the Italian Riviera in the 1980’s. He takes after his parents; he’s smart, good-looking and at ease with himself and his life. Every summer, the family takes in a boarder, a fellow academic to help Elio’s father with a few details while taking in the atmosphere and “academicizing,” as it were. When Oliver, a 24-year-old American arrives, it’s all hunky dory, fraught with the powerful tension and attention that the precocious teenager telling the story brings to every word.
Call Me By Your Name is a joyous extended vacation for any reader lucky enough to pick up the novel. Aciman manages an incredible feat in Call Me By Your Name; he re-writes reality to make our mere presence more exciting by virtue of the language and vision with which he presents it. Elio is a wonderful narrator; he is both entirely innocent and yet filled with knowledge, and importantly, confidence. As he falls both emotionally and physically in love with Oliver, there is nothing for the reader to grab on to but love itself, unformed at first, then quickly coming to life in exquisitely written scenes of courtship. Here is a novel that crafts the glorious architecture of human affection, of the joy we can find in one another.
The purity of Aciman’s vision is so embedded in the prose and Elio’s character that every page glides by, as much as our lives do. No matter what sort of book you are used to reading, Call Me By Your Name is an addictive experience, a page-turning, spell-casting sort of novel that erases time. Aciman is so at ease with Elio, who in turn is so at ease with life that all of it, love, erotica, excitement, even actual romance seem perfectly clear and easily attainable. While you are in the pages and in Elio’s life, life is easy and wonderful and real. Happily, there’s a hangover that carries on after you put down the book, which is difficult. Call Me By Your Name wants to be read.
Where we live at any given moment is, alas, rarely something we are given to know in the moment. By immersing us so effortlessly in Elio’s vision, Aciman lets us know where Elio is living in these recorded moments. Dramatic events would be superfluous in the presence of Elio’s powerful emotions. With daring clarity, Aciman’s vision informs our own. Our own lives and our own stories offer us the opportunity to live in the sort of paradise that Aciman conjures expertly, effortlessly.