James Wolcott The Catsitters

ISBN 13: 9780060932183

The Catsitters

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9780060932183: The Catsitters
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Bartender by day, actor by night, Johnny Downs cheerfully floats through life, living alone with his jukebox and his cat. Blindsided when his dazzling girlfriend dumps him, Johnny is wounded, stunned, and, most of all, clueless.

You're like most men -- oblivious, says his friend Darlene. Her diagnosis: Johnny is doomed to be rejected by every woman he desires as long as he clings to his outmoded bachelor ways. Darlene puts him on a rigorous crash course to re-brand himself as husband material. But does Darlene really have his best interests at heart? And who are all these catsitters that keep coming into his life?

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Review:

Pride and Prejudice meets Swingers, and Austen wins handily. It's hard to believe this mild-mannered novel was written by the same James Wolcott who produces such withering cultural commentary in the pages of Vanity Fair. Yet The Catsitters, while purporting to depict the cutthroat world of Manhattan dating, is ultimately a sweet-tempered example of the classic Austen plot. Which is to say, our hero searches high and low for true love, only to find that it was right under his nose all along.

That's right, our hero. Instead of an Emma or an Elizabeth, we get Johnny Downs, a beefy, almost-out-of-work actor who never scores the romantic lead in either life or theater. We also get his caustic friend Darlene, who runs his life over the phone from her hometown in Georgia. This long-distance kibitzer orchestrates Johnny's dates, moderates his behavior, and ultimately sabotages his most successful love affair. And what about the titular catsitters? They turn out to be a couple of Darlene's girlfriends, who come to New York to look after Johnny's cats for a weekend and don't bother to leave, further compounding his romantic problems.

Johnny is the kind of character who seems to move through wet cement; he's likable enough, but we keep wishing he'd get his act together. In the end, he does, to the reader's rudimentary satisfaction. Still, the book is most appealing when Wolcott forgets he's writing a novel and slips into critic mode. There are some happily acerbic lines skewering the theater. An actress in a period play, for example, speaks "as if she were christening a ship." A director greets the protagonist "with both hands extended palms-down, a Fellini-like greeting that directors ought to stop imitating." The depiction of the life of a New York actor is thick with realistic detail; the romance is pure make-believe. --Claire Dederer

About the Author:

Currently the cultural critic for Vanity Fair, James Wolcott has also been a staff writer at The Village Voice, Esquire, Harper's, and The New Yorker. He lives with his wife, Laura Jacobs, and their two cats, Roland and Jasper, in New York City.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780060194147: The Catsitters: A Novel

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0060194146 ISBN 13:  9780060194147
Publisher: Harper, 2001
Hardcover

9780732271831: The Catsitters

Harper..., 1979
Softcover

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