The Catsitters
James Wolcott
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Buy *The Catsitters: A Novel* online

The Catsitters: A Novel

James Wolcott
314 pages
August 2002
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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From acerbic and often controversial Vanity Fair columnist James Wolcott comes a surprisingly sweet debut novel about men, women, and the game of love they play out amidst the drama of everyday life.

Johnny Downs is a typical bachelor living in New York City, bartending by day to support himself while he tries to succeed as an actor. When the book opens, we’re introduced to a worry-prone Johnny, who returns from a trip to discover that his girlfriend Nicole is cheating on him. A completely clueless but nonetheless hurting Johnny rings up his friend Darlene to discuss this with her. Darlene, who “blended a Southern Belle’s feminine wiles with a Northerner’s no-nonsense direct aim” is blessed with a razor sharp brain and an acid tongue,  is Johnny’s confidante and advisor, a service which she is only too eager to execute. She tells him exactly how to woo and behave around a woman, in what areas he is lacking and how to improve both himself and his lifestyle. He is at first reluctant to do her bidding, but once he sees the wonderful results it brings he becomes her puppet.

Now his footloose and fancy-free days are over as he does his level best to follow Darlene’s instructions to try to mold himself into marriage material, the perfect mate. He does it all, though some things make him uncomfortable and sometimes it goes against his very nature. But though he meets with success initially, he finds that as time passes, nothing comes to fruition. He discovers that the only constant females in his life are his cat Slinky and the controlling Darlene. Is Darlene doing helping Johnny out of the goodness of her heart or does she have ulterior motives? Will Johnny ever meet the right woman? And if he does, will he be able to hold on to her?

Men and women alike will be utterly fascinated by the insights offered in this book through the character of Darlene about the gladiator arena of today’s high-stakes romance. The revelations and advice that come from this busy little brainiac will be an eye-opener to many of us. Whenever Darlene speaks, it's as though she is quoting from The Dummies Book Of Dating. By turns witty and poignant, The Catsitters is an adroit comedy filled with quirky, interesting, and utterly real characters who render the book a wicked joy. Readers will be alternately repulsed and fascinated by Johnny Downs, and Darlene is simply out of this world. The novel succeeds on the strength of its marvelous (albeit occasionally sagging) plotline and  unpredictable climax, and the dialogue is alternately revealing and mundane. Immensely satisfying overall, and highly recommended.

© 2002 by Rashmi Srinivas for Curled Up With a Good Book

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