Book Nerds Wilde Review Wilde Thoughts

Call Me By Your Name — Um. A Friendship?

February 27, 2019

The film’s title alludes to Oliver and Elio’s loving pact to call each other by their own names, recognising that, as [film director] Luca Guadagnino put it in a Q&A: “The other person makes you beautiful – enlightens you, elevates you.” This idea stems ultimately from Aristotle’s views on “true” friendship, but it echoes down the intervening centuries in countless works of art and literature exploring the idea that the friend is an “other self”, both a means to self-discovery and an ennobling end in itself.

David Clark in an article for The Conversation

Call Me by Your Name is a 2007 novel by American writer André Aciman that centers on a blossoming romantic relationship between an intellectually precocious and curious 17-year-old American-Italian Jewish boy named Elio Perlman and a visiting 24-year-old American Jewish scholar named Oliver in 1980s Italy.

Wikipedia
Herstun Scale -- Call Me By Your Name
Herstun Scale — Call Me By Your Name

The book, released in 2007, became a cult classic in the gay community and was picked up to become a film in 2017. The film adaptation was nominated for 3 Oscars in 2018. — Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Picture, & Best Actor (Timothée Chalamet)

The book was poetically written. It had a lot of run on sentences but nothing grammatically took away from the romance of the story. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone uncomfortable in the erotic genre or uncomfortable with modern gay relationships.

There were points in the book that made me uncomfortable. Particularly the age difference between the main characters, the stereotypical reference to gay male sexuality, and the complete insanity the teenager experiences throughout his quest for selfhood and love.

“No one had studied every bone in his body, ankles, knees, wrists, fingers, and toes, no one lusted after every ripple of muscle, no one took him to bed every night and on spotting him in the morning lying in his heaven by the pool, smiled at him, watched a smile come to his lips…”

“If I didn’t kill him, then I’d cripple him for life, so that he’d be with us in a wheelchair and never go back to the States. If he were in a wheelchair, I would always know where he was, and he’d be easy to find. I would feel superior to him and become his master, now that he was crippled.”

“I didn’t know what I was afraid of, nor why I worried so much, nor why this thing that could so easily cause panic felt like hope sometimes and, like hope in the darkest moments, brought such joy, unreal joy, joy with a noose tied around it. The thud my heart gave when I saw him unannounced both terrified and thrilled me. I was afraid when he showed up, afraid when he failed to, afraid when he looked at me, more frightened yet when he didn’t.”

Elio on Oliver in the first quarter of the book. — He sounds truly crazed.

I chose this book as a companion to my beauty series. It is set in Italy, the home of the Roman Empire, the nucleus of the spread of Greco-Roman beauty standards. Aciman references Dante, Greek, Roman, and Austrian philosophers throughout the book (below Dante and Paul Celan are pictured). Touching heavily upon about the cult of youth and immortality established in the era of the Greek god.

I have not seen the film yet, but my understanding is that it is a close adaptation of the book. I think that Andre Aciman brings some crucial questions to the forefront to be analyzed throughout throughout the beauty series:

What standards of beauty does Elio meet? What is beautiful about their relationship? Their friendship? Why do we believe that teenage infatuation is akin to devotion? How would Elio and Oliver been perceived if they had different colored skin? If Elio was from a poor, working class Italian family?

My favorite qotes from the book:

“We are not written for one instrument alone; I am not, neither are you.”

“You are my homecoming. When I’m with you and we’re well together, there is nothing more I want. You make me like who I am, who I become when you’re with me…”

“…not to give what I was dying to give him at whatever price was perhaps the greatest crime I might ever commit in my life. I desperately wanted to give him something. By contrast, taking seemed so bland, so facile, so mechanical.”

“But remember, our hearts and our bodies are given to us only once. Most of us can’t help but live as though we’ve got two lives to live, one is the mockup, the other the finished version, and then there are all those versions in between. But there’s only one, and 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. Right now there’s sorrow. I don’t envy the pain. But I envy you the pain.” He took a breath.”

“… It would finally dawn on us both that he was more me than I had ever been myself, because when he became me and I became him in bed so many years ago, he was and would forever remain, long after every forked road in life had done its work, my brother, my friend, my father, my son, my husband, my lover, myself.”

Credits

Written, Edited, & Curated By W.D. Herstun
imdb.com for all movie images. Click links under pictures for details.
Wikipedia
The Conversation — Academic rigor, journalistic flair
Creative Commons — pixabay.com
Call Me By Your Name — Direct Reference — https://www.goodreads.com/notes/43985193-call-me-by-your-name/44627269-w-d-herstun?ref=abp

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  1. The piece of the title where you say “Um. A friendship?” Do you mean to imply that, rather than lovers, Elio and Oliver were friends, though homoerotically involved?

    “The film’s title alludes to Oliver and Elio’s loving pact to call each other by their own names, recognising that, as Guadagnino put it in a Q&A: “The other person makes you beautiful – enlightens you, elevates you.” This idea stems ultimately from Aristotle’s views on “true” friendship, but it echoes down the intervening centuries in countless works of art and literature exploring the idea that the friend is an “other self”, both a means to self-discovery and an ennobling end in itself.” What a beautiful concept! I do not think, personally, such true friendships necessitate the exclusion of romantic involvement — though Aristotle would have, most likely, excluded Women from ever being an “other self” to a man (thus a homosexual relationship would be the only possible manifestation of both a true friendship and a true love affair), not that I, myself, hold such antiquated views. (You may be more knowledgeable about this than I, who have not studied Aristotle extensively by any means.)

    While the standardization of homosexuality through cultural works like this — the creation of a cannon for queer sexualities — can be seen as something limiting and negative, it is, in some sense, liberating, as one can feel inline with a norm and also be gay, something which was impossible 50-100 years ago. (Well, not liberating, but a liberation from insecurity, nonetheless.) I say this as one who knows all too well what it is like to feel utterly out of normative qualification in my social context, by no means a comfortable feeling or one I would wish on anyone unduly.

    Regardless, a thought provoking post.

    Best!
    Ethan

    1. You are so spot on! Aristotle absolutely would have denied women the ability to know men the way he felt friends knew each other. I love that modernity has removed the need for your ‘other-self’ to be same-sexed but I think the violent swing towards heteronormativity has caused people to lose sight of the true heritage of friendships. Call Me By Name brings that roaring back in the most uncomfortable way possible!!

      I am so glad you found the post interesting. I defeintely think that books and films like this normalize homoerotic behavior which is a positive thing, indeed! I just hope that it also helps the entire gay community to achieve safer existences. I hear he is writing a sequel! Maybe there is an ending for Elio and Oliver we have yet to see! Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

      🖤 Herstun

  2. “The other person makes you beautiful – enlightens you, elevates you.” Yes. There is a fine line between love, friendship, and codependence.

    1. Bingo! Thats my thoughts exactly. And the co-dependence at such a young age to someone so much older… It’s really the worst case scenario as a parent. I must admit. Thanks for reading and commenting!!

      🖤 Herstun 🖤

  3. I’ve only heard a little about this book, as I thought the age difference would make me uncomfortable, so it’s fascinating to read about the wider philosophical and social context referenced within it. Perhaps I should give it a try!

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