cover image Romantic Comedy

Romantic Comedy

Curtis Sittenfeld. Random House, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-0-399-59094-8

The culture wars and political drama of Sittenfeld’s best work are absent in her underwhelming latest (after Rodham), which follows a successful but insecure woman who catches the eye of a rock star. It’s 2018, and Sally Milz, 36, is a seasoned staff writer for the sketch comedy show The Night Owls, a thinly disguised SNL. She is busy pulling all-nighters and writing up a storm of skits, one of which is a spoof on gorgeous women actors dating nerdy, wordy guys—and how the opposite would never happen—when Noah Brewster, the host and musical guest for the upcoming episode, asks her to help him with some material. Despite their chemistry, Sally cannot believe that a gorgeous celebrity could fall in love with her. Then Covid comes along before they reconnect, first with a long string of emails during July 2020. In the third act, a month later, they reunite in person. The email thread goes on a bit too long, sapping the narrative of momentum, though Sittenfeld does manage to evoke Sally’s vulnerability (“because I’m in danger of confusing the romance of emailing with the romance of romance,” she writes to Noah). There’s some brilliant character work, but as Cinderella stories go, this doesn’t quite stand out. Agent: Claudia Ballard, WME. (Apr.)