The Catsitters

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Overview

Renowned for his barbed-wire wit, Vanity Fair literary critic James Wolcott turns his wicked eye on the vagaries of romance in this viciously funny debut novel about the ways men and women communicate—and don't—in the never-ending search for a soulmate. Johnny Downs is a man down on his luck. Dumped by a string of girlfriends, Johnny has just been given the boot again. Hurt, baffled, and most of all, clueless, Johnny enlists Darlene Rider, a sassy Southern belle with a Hannibal Lecter heart and tactical genius in...
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Renowned for his barbed-wire wit, Vanity Fair literary critic James Wolcott turns his wicked eye on the vagaries of romance in this viciously funny debut novel about the ways men ... and women communicate and don't in the never-ending search for a soulmate. Johnny Downs is a man down on his luck. Dumped by a string of girlfriends, Johnny has just been given the boot again. Hurt, baffled, and most of all, clueless, Johnny enlists Darlene Rider, a sassy Southern belle with a Hannibal Lecter heart and tactical genius in the relationship game, to help him cast off his bachelor habits and rebrand himself as "husband material." What follows is a crash course in love and romance as only Darlene could teach it and James Wolcott could write it. Read more Show Less

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The Catsitters

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Overview

Renowned for his barbed-wire wit, Vanity Fair literary critic James Wolcott turns his wicked eye on the vagaries of romance in this viciously funny debut novel about the ways men and women communicate—and don't—in the never-ending search for a soulmate. Johnny Downs is a man down on his luck. Dumped by a string of girlfriends, Johnny has just been given the boot again. Hurt, baffled, and most of all, clueless, Johnny enlists Darlene Rider, a sassy Southern belle with a Hannibal Lecter heart and tactical genius in the relationship game, to help him cast off his bachelor habits and rebrand himself as "husband material." What follows is a crash course in love and romance as only Darlene could teach it—and James Wolcott could write it.

Humorous, biting, insightful, The Catsitters is part The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, part The Art of War, and is sure to delight men and women alike. Between the popular columnist's fans and the storm of media interest in the book, The Catsitters will be the book to read this summer.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This first novel by Vanity Fair literary critic Wolcott takes the typical boy-meets-girl romantic fiction scenario several steps beyond the average. Johnny Downs is a struggling New York actor who is completely bewildered and befuddled by the motives of the female sex. One week, he returns home to find that his girlfriend Nicole has not only neglected to provide adequate care for his cat, Slinky, but that she is also seeing someone else. Fortunately, his long-distance Southern confidante and friend, Darlene Rider, is there to offer him sassy and clever advice. Darlene guides him through several romantic entanglements that just never seem to work out the way they should. By now readers might assume that Darlene will turn out to be his one true love but not so. This novel has so many hilarious twists and turns that it keeps even the most jaded romance reader turning the pages. Wolcott expertly blends his careening plot with wit, sarcasm, and insight. A secondary storyline dealing with Slinky will also charm and touch almost any cat lover. An essential purchase for every public library with contemporary fiction readers. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/01.] Margaret Hanes, Sterling Heights P.L., MI Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060194147
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/26/2001
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.05 (d)

Meet 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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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



At first I thought it was a human cry. As the elevator stuttered open at my floor, I heard a baby wailing behind a neighbor's door, like a tiny captive. Then I realized the sound was coming from inside my apartment, growing louder and more plaintive the closer I got. I set my travel bag down on the faded patch of carpet where the welcome mat used to be before it got stolen. When I unlocked the door, she was sitting waiting for me, her green cat eyes glaring and her ears cocked. Holding the pose just long enough to make her point, Slinky returned her ears to their normal upright position and padded toward me, uttering a cry that expressed confusion, distress, and annoyance all at once. Where have you been? She had always been a vocal animal, but this was a note of rebuke I hadn't heard before, backed up with an impressive amount of body language for such a small animal. She paused at my feet, hunching her shoulders and looking up at me as if to lodge a formal complaint.

"I missed you, too," I said, bending to pet her. She ducked under my hand after a couple of head rubs and turned tail, heading for the kitchen. I followed, wanting to see how she had done on her breakfast.

Slinky's water bowl was dry, which was nothing unusual. She often expressed her displeasure when I was absent for a few days by smacking its rim with her paw, knocking it over and spilling water everywhere. I had learned to take the precaution of placing a pan in the sink beneath the dripping faucet, creating a temporary watering hole just in case. But her food dish was also empty, and the kitchen counterwas covered with black pawprints, like a mambo diagram in a dance lesson. Fish-shaped crunchy bits were scattered all over the counter and floor where the cat had torn a fist-sized hole into the side of the catfood box. My girlfriend Nicole was supposed to catsit while I was visiting my family in Maryland, but the evidence was that Slinky had fended for herself the entire weekend. I swept the fish-shaped kibble into the palm of my hand, tossing it into the trash can. As Slinky wove between my legs, doing narrow figure-eights, I opened a can of soft food and refilled her water bowl. "Don't eat too fast," I said, stroking her back. Her black fur was matted, salted with dandruff. She looked like a Halloween cat down on her luck.

While Slinky ate, I checked the bathroom for other signs of mischief. I had gotten off lightly this time. A shredded roll of toilet paper lay on the floor in a perforated heap, but she hadn't knocked my shaving products, shampoos, and medicine bottles into the sink, as she had over the Christmas holiday. I cleaned her litter box, laying down a thin spread of baking soda below the fresh litter. I then checked the bedroom, opening the closet doors and checking for fabric holes. Under stress, Slinky sometimes became wool-eater.

The only casualty was the toe of a sock she must have pulled out of the hamper. It was one of my good socks, too, from a pair Nicole had given me for Christmas. I went through the rest of the apartment, doing damage assessment and minor tidying up. It wasn't that warm in the apartment, but after fifteen minutes I was sweating like a busboy, not so much from exertion as from anxiety building a base camp in my stomach. I took off my jacket and aired myself out a little, then grabbed a Coke from the refrigerator and sat down to figure out what might have happened. Maybe there was a problem with the duplicate keys I had made for Nicole, or maybe she had misplaced them. But why hadn't she left a message on my machine letting me know? Nothing's ever easy in New York. There's always a hitch.

It was early April, the Monday after Easter. The living-room blinds were jammed at the top of the window frame, where they refused to budge after I had yanked too hard on the cord a few months earlier. I had planned to get them fixed, but I tend to let things slide until they reach the crisis stage. I opened the window a slice to let in a breeze, then retreated to the far end of the sofa, away from the afternoon sunlight, which was beginning to beat. From where I sat I could see the stone bell tower of St. Teresa's, the bell itself as black as an old tarred cannon in the village square. Birds lined the turret, flapping their wings as they settled on the ledge. The layers of white droppings on the ledge looked like cake icing. The red light on my answering machine, which blinked when I had messages, was a solid dot. I picked up the phone, dialed Nicole's office, and got her assistant, Ty, who always spoke to me as if I were clogging the information highway.

"Nicole Price's office," Ty said.

"Hi, it's Johnny Downs. Nicole in?"

"Not at present." He was more curt than usual, speaking in very distinct syllables.

"Do you know when she's expected back?"

"She's at a clients' lunch, and I believe there may be an in-house conference afterward, but I wouldn't want to go on record with that."

In case there might be a congressional investigation later.

"Well, could you tell her I called?"

"Will do."

"Tell her she can call me after work, if that's more conven--"

"I have a messenger standing here waiting. I'll leave word you called."

I pictured Ty signing for a package with a lightning hand as I dialed Nicole's home number and left...

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2001

    I'm enjoying this one a lot!!

    Witty and almost cynical, but every once in awhile it just catches you emotionally and you have to stop and think about those feelings... The storyline is just right for those who enjoy Relationship Novels. I'm totally enjoying it and admire the nuances the author was able to describe in daily life and dating life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2001

    I Couldn't Put This One Down!

    This is humor at its best -- with sharp insights, incredibly lovely writing, a fast-paced, gripping plot, and characters you actually care about. Wolcott's take on the relationship between the sexes is right on. His close observations of people and situations mirror his non-fiction writing. I couldn't put this one down.

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