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Review-a-Day
Esquire
Wednesday, January 14th, 2004


 

American Sucker

by David Denby

Boo Hoo

A review by Adrienne Miller

It isn't a pretty story. In the year 2000 ("Y2K," as it was then known), David Denby's life hit, he thought, rock bottom. Little did he know then, though, that it would get worse. Oh so very much worse. His wife (warmly referred to here as the "novelist Cathleen Schine") of nearly two decades left him, vacating their seven-room Upper West Side apartment. Denby moved out, too, but their two kids remained behind in the apartment; Denby and the "novelist Cathleen Schine" took turns staying with them. Here it's probably worth nothing that the kids rate little more than an occasional aside in Denby's monumentally selfish (and really quite uninteresting) personal journey that follows. (The son who's "listening to more rap and less Dave Matthews," etc.) American Sucker chronicles the next three unhappy years in Denby's life: the Get Rich years, as it were. (He needs a million bucks so he can buy out the "novelist Cathleen Schine"'s share of their apartment.) Watch as Denby goes from abandoned husband, to enjoyer of Internet porn, to older guy with impotence issues, to stock market investor and friend of Sam Waksal's and Henry Blodget's (that doomed twosome). You don't even want to know how much money Denby eventually ends up losing. Denby's movie reviews in the New Yorker are smart and funny, and his memoir Great Books was earnest and good-hearted. But American Sucker is a knuckleheadedly awful book. As Fred Willard memorably put it in A Mighty Wind, "Wha' happened?"


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