THE SEDUCTIONS OF NATALIE BACH
Still in high school, Natalie Bach wanders the streets of New York, visiting studios of hip artists, experimenting with sex and searching for her sexual identity. She flies on the city’s energy, experiencing jubilant highs and grinding lows–in fights with her spiteful mother, sessions with her psychiatrist, one night stands, and a painful, unrequited love affair with playboy Claude. She attends The Art Students’ League and takes her first steps toward becoming an artist. Natalie haunts the apartment of her friend and former teacher, Maxine, a steamy seductress whose intensity matches Natalie’s. Charged with urgency and confusion, their friendship blossoms into a love affair, leaving Natalie confused about her sexual identity. Maxine says of her:
“Natalie, like the bellwether of a generation she claimed to repudiate, made leaps that left me dizzy….So much the seeker, lop-eyed celebrant, impressionable tabula rasa upon which the moment could etch its havoc. One day she appeared at my apartment in plaster-spattered jeans, hair splashed out in a great nimbus. Her eyes glowed; she was perhaps high. Beside her was a blond beautiful creature, real pretty boy, with refined, nearly feminine features, and transparent blue eyes. She had come to show us off to each other.
“This is Claude,” she smiled, innocent as a spring flower, wholly incognizant of the sun’s infidelity. And he offered a smile that was all sex and narcissism.”
Natalie’s journey of self-discovery takes her cross-country to live in the redwoods, to Israel, and back to New York again. She is both seduced and seductress, an impressionable girl who epitomizes the rebellious spirit of the sixties, defying convention to live life on her own terms. Seductions documents a heady girl’s coming of age at a heady time, and her wide-eyed discovery of the wondrous, remarkably confusing world around her. Narrated in the first person by Natalie and her friend Maxine.
Little, Brown nominated the novel for The National Book Award and The Pen/Faulkner award.
Praise for The Seductions of Natalie Bach:
For the Beach Blanket:
“The Seductions of Natalie Bach” by William Luvaas
“The Seductions of Natalie Bach” is one of the best works of fiction about that pregnant decade [the sixties], comparable to Marge Piercy’s “Small Changes” and Lisa Alther’s “Kinflicks.”
Luvaas recaptures the excitement of coming of age against a background of assassination, political activism, sexual experimentation, intellectual arrogance and generational conflict. He also creates in Natalie Bach, and her friend and mentor Maxine Pearlman, believable characters whose fate we care about. Natalie, imagining her escape from New York at the novel’s end, ignores her mother’s inevitably practical questions about finances. ‘I do not answer. My thoughts focusing already far ahead…past a sign announcing ‘Albuquerque 33 miles’ as the highway makes a slow swagger into the mountains, or ‘Mexico City,’ or ‘Paris 80 kilometers’ or ‘fame’ or ‘failure’ (with dignity as Maxine would say) or LIFE DEAD AHEAD.’”
– John Gabree, books/paperbacks, Newsday
Original Phrases, descriptions buoy ‘60s novel
“This is a tale of lost sexual innocence, female relationships and growing up. Perhaps the most striking thing about “The Seductions of Natalie Bach” is Luvaas’ writing style. He tumbles onto the pages in an explosion of original phrases and descriptions to produce a novel that is not only fun to read but also full of surprises.”
– Joyce Demma Bertshy, The Arizona Daily Star
“It is always amazing when a male author creates a convincing female character. And it is pleasant to discover in William Luvaas a writer who can develop a longish novel plot and do it with a style that produces such phrases as ‘the whisper-slither night,’ ‘the listless lap of summer.’ ‘winter’s sharp knees coming around the corner.’ and ‘maturity coming on like a mugger.’”
– C.W., Santa Cruz Sentinel
First Person Singular Success
“Luvaas says he got the idea for “The Seductions of Natalie Bach” when he heard a story about two women whose teacher-pupil relationship grew into an intense and convoluted friendship. He tried to write a short story about that kind of relationship, using the third person. It didn’t work. Finally, one day, he just wrote “Me” at the top of a page, began to use the voices of the two women he imagined, and a novel started taking shape. ‘It was like someone was whispering in my ear,’ he says. ‘It just took off….‘”
– Deidre McNamer, Oregon Life: The Eugene Register-Guard
William Luvaas: The Seductions of Natalie Bach
“My intention in Seductions is surely to entertain, to entice the reader into the crazy, troubled, unpredictable world of…a woman who refuses rote and convention, who must discover life for herself. In a brusque journey–through the sixties, family feud, friendship, women’s lib, Israel, art, marriage, and loss–[she] finds there are no glib solutions, resisting the epidemic of quick-fix self-awareness around her. Never surrendering young dreams to adult realities. I’ve tried to challenge taboos: that male writers cannot write women; that characterization should be flat, everyday, ordinary. Tried to breathe awkward, imperfect, flamboyant life into my characters….Seductions is a male writer’s attempt to move beyond the stereotypical female characters (housework, husbands, tepid hopes) to make women bold personalities, doers and shapers of the book’s terrain, to enter into and interpret a woman’s experience–close up.”
– Interview in Library Journal
A tale of two writers
“‘The Seductions of Natalie Bach was rejected 53 times by agents and publishers here and in England [Luvaas says]….It was an agonizing process….One agent wanted a revision. Finally, she confessed, ‘I can’t bring myself to like Natalie. She’s too much like my daughter.’
‘I drove back from a vacation on the West Coast at my wit’s end. A-n-n-n-nd waiting for me at home was a telegram from Little, Brown and Co. ‘We’ve been seduced by Natalie Bach. Call collect.’”
William Luvaas is the author of a first novel about the turbulent 1960s. Last year, “The Seductions of Natalie Bach” was “taken over the transom” by Little, Brown and Co., one of just 10 novels so accepted in the past 30 years by the well-known publisher….
This is not a book to rush through, looking for the sexy parts. It’s too well-written for that. One needs to savor the small surprises in the language. And, besides, there are plenty of sexy parts as Natalie struggles through sexual uncertainties on her defiant, careening course toward womanhood….
The unusual thing about “Seductions” is that the story is told from a woman’s point of view (actually two women) but is written by a man. “I don’t know if it was courage or foolishness,” Luvaas says with a grin. “It came so naturally….’”
– Eleanor Martin, Sunday Magazine – The Times Herald Record
Beyond the Best Sellers
“The story relates the coming of age of Natalie Bach: New Yorker and child of the ‘60s, who, while traveling down all the dead-end alleyways of her generation, manages to save herself by a gutsy determination to remain her own person….a novel by turns warm, coy, sad and funny, always human, and ultimately heroic. What’s interesting about Seductions is Luvaas’ attempt to render the era that began with the ‘60s in terms of its pervasive confusion–personal, sexual, political, spiritual, ideological….Here’s Maxine rapping it down:
‘But now there were new stirrings in America and Nat as excited about them as the rest of us….Village coffee houses and St. Marks Church poetry readings, featuring Le Roi Jones and Allen Ginsberg. A new energy in the air, legacy of the old but pursued by a generation that knew nothing of immigration and celebrated its opposite. All of us felt it–from Puerto Ricans who came across Tompkins Square Park to Beat poets who wrote about them. A living lab where people played possibilities. Zen, sex and chemicals. You felt at the heart of it just walking the streets–garbage littered, dog shit filthy, but charged with the incessant hum of conversation from cafes, bars, sprawling furniture-nude lofts and shotgun flats, where revolution was stashed under floorboards and death lurked in the eye of a needle. Poetry howls, ecstasy moans. Everyday more appearing: runaways from every backwater in America discovering themselves in long hair and yeast infections and Bob Dylan and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, in seemingly perpetual beatitude amid the unblessed gray hulks and urine stench.’
– Doug Marx, BookMarx column, Willamette Week – Portland, Oregon
Bill Luvaas: A Novelist’s Commitment
“‘You are about to be seduced,’ reads the ad in the New York Times Book Review Section for Bill Luvaas’s new novel, The Seductions of Natalie Bach. But for Bill the process of seduction began five years ago, when he lived on 10th Street near the park [Brooklyn]….
The “seductions” of the title refer to the temptations that pull Natalie one way and the next. She is drawn in to involvement with various family members, boyfriends and women, and to various ideals–artistic, political and personal. Each time, however, the limitations of the relationship and ideals scare her away….
The novel has the feel of one written by a native of the city, even though Bill grew up in Oregon and now lives upstate. He describes its grittiness, its romance and despair, with a poetry that makes the novel satisfying and intelligent reading.”
– Jonathan Ward, Prospect Press, Brooklyn, NY