Friday, January 12, 2024

Book Review: Romantic Comedy

By Melissa Amster

Sally Milz is a sketch writer for The Night Owls, a late-night live comedy show that airs every Saturday. With a couple of heartbreaks under her belt, she’s long abandoned the search for love, settling instead for the occasional hook-up, career success, and a close relationship with her stepfather to round out a satisfying life.

But when Sally’s friend and fellow writer Danny Horst begins dating Annabel, a glamorous actress who guest-hosted the show, he joins the not-so-exclusive group of talented but average-looking and even dorky men at the show—and in society at large—who’ve gotten romantically involved with incredibly beautiful and accomplished women. Sally channels her annoyance into a sketch called The Danny Horst Rule, poking fun at this phenomenon while underscoring how unlikely it is that the reverse would ever happen for a woman.

Enter Noah Brewster, a pop music sensation with a reputation for dating models, who signed on as both host and musical guest for this week’s show. Dazzled by his charms, Sally hits it off with Noah instantly, and as they collaborate on one sketch after another, she begins to wonder if there might actually be sparks flying. But this isn’t a romantic comedy—it’s real life. And in real life, someone like him would never date someone like her . . . right?

With her keen observations and trademark ability to bring complex women to life on the page, Curtis Sittenfeld explores the neurosis-inducing and heart-fluttering wonder of love, while slyly dissecting the social rituals of romance and gender relations in the modern age. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

This is my first time reading a Curtis Sittenfeld novel. I kept hearing good things about Romantic Comedy and decided to check it out. I'm glad I did! It was really enjoyable throughout and I still find myself thinking about it at random times.

I grew up watching Saturday Night Live and still watch clips from time to time. I'm even seeing one of the regulars perform locally next month and am excited about that! So it was cool to see what goes on behind the scenes of a show like SNL and how challenging it is to have to write new scripts every week in hopes that they'll make it onto the show at week's end. It's a lot of work for both the writers and the actors and this novel made me appreciate what they do even more.

I loved the banter between Sally and Noah. It came across as genuine and reminded me of the conversations I had with my husband when we first met. Especially with the emails they were sending at one point. The story had a Nora Ephron feel and I think she would have made this into a movie if she were still alive. 

Overall, it was a light and breezy read about dating in the 21st century and the standards that are put on women vs. men when it comes to expectations and the like. I appreciated that Sally was closer to forty years old when this story was taking place. She also seemed like a relatable and down-to-earth character. Noah was incredibly likable too and I could see why he was so crush-worthy. I also found it funny and refreshing that the characters could talk so openly about bodily functions.

If you haven't checked out this novel yet or you're also new to Curtis's writing, definitely prioritize it in 2024! If you have already read it, I'd love to chat with you about it.

Movie casting suggestions:
Henrietta: Patti Harrison
Danny: Nat Wolff

More by Curtis Sittenfeld:

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