May 12, 2006
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.—Lawrence Douglas, professor of law, jurisprudence and social thought at Amherst College, has published a new novel, The Catastrophist ($24.95, 276 pp., The Other Press, New York, 2006). The Catastrophist is Douglas’s first novel.
An intellectual comedy in the tradition of Michael Frayn and David Lodge, The Catastrophist is also a satire of both the erotic and the academic life of Daniel Ben Wellington, a respected art historian and respectable husband—and yet a “futurephobe,” that is, a man “afraid of tomorrow.” Daniel has known nothing but success, but knows the future promises nothing but disaster. His reaction to impending fatherhood is to run: straight into a full-blown if comical existential crisis. Soon the young professor is 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. This deranged behavior provokes the very catastrophes he fears most.
From an idyllic New England campus to the art world of Berlin and London, The Catastrophist charts the rise and fall and partial rebound of an ambivalent but endearing Everyman. It is “mercilessly witty… surprising and original” according to William H. Pritchard ’53, the Henry Clay Folger Professor of English at Amherst College. Before publication, Kirkus Reviews wrote in a starred review, “At its best, this is very nearly 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.” Booklist called it a “sublime comic creation.”
A member of the faculty at Amherst since 1990, Douglas received an A.B. degree from Brown University, an M.A. from Columbia and a J.D. from Yale Law School. He is the author of the acclaimed book The Memory of Judgment: Making Law and History in the Trials of the Holocaust (2003). He is the co-author, with his Amherst College colleague Alexander George, of Sense and Nonsensibility: Lampoons of Language and Literature (2004), a collection of satires of literary criticism, the educational establishment and American culture. His current book project, Reflections on the Glass Booth, on perpetrator trials, will be published by Princeton University Press. His essays and commentary have appeared in numerous publications, including The Washington Post, The Boston Globe Magazine, The TLS and the Los Angeles Times, and his fiction and humor have appeared in Tikkun, The New Yorker and The New York Times Book Review, among many others.