By Lawrence Douglas
(Other Press, Hardcover, 9781590512197, 276pp.)
Publication Date: May 17, 2006
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Visit the website at www.otherpress.com/catastrophist
In the tradition of Michael Frayn and David Lodge, an intellectual comedy satirizing love, marriage, and academic life.
Meet Daniel Wellington. Art historian, academic star, devoted husband, and futurephobe. Although Daniel has known nothing but success, he's convinced the future promises nothing but disaster. When his wife presents him with a tiny, size XXS Yale sweatshirt, Daniel is seized by the impulse to bolt; the specter of imminent fatherhood sends him into a full-blown existential crisis. Soon this well-intentioned, if neurotic, young professor finds himself plotting bigamy, lying about his past, imagining his pregnant wife in the arms of an androgynous graduate student, and explaining to the dean why he e-mailed an obscene suggestion to the naked lead in a student production of Miss Julie. Naturally, Daniel's hilariously deranged behavior brings about the very catastrophes he fears most.
From an idyllic New England campus to the rarefied art worlds of Berlin and London, The Catastrophist charts the rise and fall and partial rebound of an ambivalent but endearing everyman. Razor sharp and riotously funny, this debut novel heralds the appearance of a major new comedic voice in American fiction.
What the critics are saying:
"an American Lucky Jim: an acerbic comedy of manners with serious issues (responsibility and veracity in both marital and global relationships) at its solid core."
-Kirkus Reviews, STARRED
"The Catastrophist tempers its rollicking downward spiral with expert pacing and regular flashes of atmospheric brilliance. It becomes almost impossible not to see in [Daniel's] fate the ghost of another literary campus martyr, Coleman Silk of Philip Roth's 2000 novel, The Human Stain. Roth menaced his hero with an Ivy Tower that demanded he conceal his roots; Douglas has given us an anti-hero who digs too deep for an imaginary bad seed. In the end, Daniel emerges as a new father with a fresh conception of survival, but the dark shadow of dysfunction hovers over this winsome book's sunniest epiphanies.
Lawrence Douglas teaches at Amherst College. He is the author of an acclaimed study of war crimes trials, The Memory of Judgment (Yale University Press, 2001), and coauthor of a book of humor, Sense and Nonsensibility (Simon and Schuster, 2004). His writing has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Hudson Review, McSweeney's, and the New Yorker, and he is a regular contributor to the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Times Literary Supplement. Douglas lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.