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The Catastrophist

3.03 of 5 stars 3.03  ·  rating details  ·  101 ratings  ·  18 reviews
Meet Daniel Wellington: art historian, academic star, devoted husband, and total basket case. Although Daniel has known nothing but success, he’s convinced the future promises nothing but disaster. When his wife, known simply as R., 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 ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 7th 2007 by Mariner Books (first published 2006)
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Community Reviews

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Travis Fortney
I thought this book was funny and observant.

This is something like Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim, with a few important differences. First, there's no traumatic event (i.e. war) in this narrator's past, to help us excuse and understand his borderline insane behavior. This might seem to work against the book's premise, but I didn't mind it much. It ups the comedic ante when this character is searching for something to give his life meaning and gravity, as well as making a terrible mess of things. Seco
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Eric Hinrichsen Jr.
I picked this book up at a discount bookstore and bought it because of its interesting premise and interesting book cover.

I liked this book, don't let the three stars fool you. It was a well written piece of literature and it ended up introducing me to a ton of new vocabulary words. The one problem I had with this novel is that I haven't been this depressed over a book in a good long while.

Watching the main character systematically destroy his life made me internally scream "No, goddamn it, no!
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Ken-ichi
Old review from 2006

Ak gave this to me for my birthday because of the hilarious cover. The author is an Amherst professor, and the book is about an almost adulterous professor at a small Massachusetts liberal arts college. Why do people take “Write what you know” so literally? It just makes the book seem pseudo-autobiographical. More later.

I’m not sure I would call this book “riotously funny” or “thought-provoking” as the dust jacket would have you believe. A professor of art makes it big, has a
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Raymond Burt
I started out loving the book. It's witty, irreverent view of academia reminded me of Smiley's Moo and Russo's Straight Man, and of course, I loved the references to German cultural history and the fact that the protagonist had a Fulbright to Germany. Past midway, the novel veered toward the midlife crisis and the painfully obsessive aspects of a failing relationship. I liked the ending, and overall, the book.
Kathy
A dark satirical look at marriage and academia in contemporary society. The protagonist's wild journey through life leads him into an entertaining existential crisis. Lawrence Douglas' writing style reminded me of both Philip Roth (Jewish identity issues) and Tom Wolfe (commentary on social issues). A solid debut novel by an author who I will be anxious to read again.
Lauren
I HATED the first 2/3 of this book. The main character is a selfish, childish philanderer who is surrounded by amazing yet totally accomadating women. Obviously the author's delusional fantasy about what being an academic is like. The last 1/3 was actually pretty sweet and funny, but on the whole I would say don't waste your time.
Laurie
I liked it, I really did. Solid enjoyment. Well-developed characters. Just--not quite sure it lived up to the promise of its title.

Marriage, career, the awkward romance of academia all pitch-perfect here. R. is a likeable lady. Daniel a sympathetic fellow. It's just. Why aren't the settings more vivid, the action more energetic?
Grier
Did this book get a lot of buzz and I missed it? Because I thought it was awesome. Hilarious but also sort of dark. The ending was kind of lame, but what's one page in 300?

My only caveat would be NOT to read the back. I think knowing the plot ahead of time would ruin the fun.
Jess
It's a downer book about academic life that manages to be both spot-on at times and dead-wrong at others. Most memorable part? The one where academic publishing is likened to throwing rose petals in the Grand Canyon--beautiful and useless.
Wyatt
I like books like this now, about professionals, particularly professors in their 30's and their neurotic ways. It has the comforts of Edsel, Straight Man, Philip Roth books, or what little I know of Richard Ford.
Nic
another semi-realistic look at life....but way way more interesting than you might think....this poor guy makes a mess of everything...but you feel good reading it.
Kathy
I wish you could give half-stars. I'd give this 3 1/2. It was a sort of depressing story, I wanted to reach into the book and save the main character from himself.
Jenny
The woe of being a smart man with an equally smart wife. It was hard for me to give a damn about this story. There was a wit to the writing which kept me reading.
David
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jess
another story about neurotic academics that manages to be both both incredibly accurate and incredibly inaccurate.
Maggie
This book stressed me out, and I didn't like the characters. (Sorry Allie.)
Jess
the existential struggle of the everyman. often times tooooo relatable.
Julie
Dark, but enjoyable.
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