THE CATSITTERS

James Wolcott, Author . HarperCollins $25 (314p) ISBN 978-0-06-019414-7

A blue-tinted review in adult Forecasts indicates a book that we believe is of exceptional interest to our readers but that hasn't received a starred or boxed review.

THE CATSITTERSJames Wolcott. HarperCollins, $25 (320p) ISBN 0-06-019414-6

Fans of Vanity Fair's famously mordant critic might be puzzled by the rather mild tone of his first novel. Johnny Downs is that echt Manhattan figure, the actor/bartender: theater is where his heart is; tending bar and appearing in commercials pay the bills. While attending a conference on theater in Athens, Ga., he meets bat-watching grad student Darlene Ryder, who's just quirky enough to pique his interest. Scotching the idea of any sexual relationship between them, Darlene installs herself as a sort of long-distance relationship guru—a feminine superego to Johnny's masculine id. Whenever he makes a romantic move, she is always a telephone call away, coaching him. After he is dumped by his current girlfriend, Nicole, the Darlene/Johnny interface gets out of hand—she orchestrates his parties, his dates and even arranges for a friend of hers to sit for his beloved cat, Slinky, which leads to all kinds of trouble. Darlene's boundless supply of advice—and Johnny's gullible acceptance of it—positions the novel as the male counterpart to Melissa Bank's Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing. But when Darlene finally goes too far, sabotaging a romance that actually might work out on its own, Johnny finds out just what their friendship is all about. Although Wolcott's premise shows satiric possibility and his insights into the world of struggling actors are dead-on, the novel handicaps itself by giving Darlene's monomania center stage. Her opinions on everything from aftershave to floor tiles will exhaust readers' patience long before she exhausts Johnny's. (On-sale: June 27)

Forecast: Wolcott's reputation alone will be enough to ensure reviews everywhere and brisk sales. That the novel will appeal to both male and female readers is another plus. NPR campaign; five-city author tour.

Reviewed on: 05/07/2001
Release date: 07/01/2001
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