"Run Catch Kiss"

Another view of Sohn's roman

Published July 22, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

The Bridget Jones bandwagon continues to roll. Amy Sohn's "Run Catch Kiss," the latest tale of an independent young woman desperately seeking Mr. Right, centers on Ariel Steiner, a recent Brown graduate who moves home to Brooklyn to temp while she looks for work as an actress. After a theater director declares her monologue, "Vanya in my Vulva" -- about being fingered by an older man in the middle of a showing of "Vanya on 42nd Street" -- to be "firm and stark and tight," she gets the writing bug and sends a few provocative stories to an alternative weekly. Before long she's a columnist for the paper, writing about her dating escapades and her lively sex life.

Sohn knows the drill. Since 1996 she has been writing a column about her own dating escapades and lively sex life, "Female Trouble," for the New York Press. The column and the novel share the same breezy tone and the same array of four-letter words. As a columnist, Sohn is deft at drawing readers into her love crisis du jour, and she's a lot of fun to read. But at novel length her smutty prose becomes tedious, and you begin to long for some emotion. "The dick of his IQ grew hard as a rock in the pussy of my heart" is pretty much what you get. After pages and pages of Ariel's disastrous dates with losers, you're dying for her to take a moment to ask herself why her amorous returns are so dismal.

The plot skips from Ariel's days temping for a "Corposhit" to her nights bar-hopping downtown and her late nights in her Brooklyn apartment. While she struggles with her public persona -- she gets hate mail, her parents don't know what to make of her column and some men won't date her because they don't want to end up in print with their pants down -- she loves the attention. "If I was riling people up," she reasons, "I had to be doing something right."

Ariel sleeps with narcissists, heroin addicts, old flames and new ones -- men who are intrigued by her line of work and turned on by her brashness. She is a mess of contradictions. Though she chronicles her freewheeling sex life for the masses, she insists that deep down she is a "shtetl girl," longing for a yenta to fix her up with a "sensitive doting young [man] so we could spend our lives together and I'd never be lonely again." Although she's hypersexual, she has trouble, she admits, reaching orgasm; the explosive climaxes she writes about in her column are faked for her readers' sake.

And she can act pretty desperate. "I decided to try ... recycling old [guys]. Whenever I had downtime at work, I went through my address book and dialed my exes. I called every cock I'd touched in summer camp, Reform Jewish youth group, and high school ... " When guys lose interest, she wonders why, briefly gets sad, then moves on.

If only Ariel wrestled with her contradictions or explored how confounding life can be to be a young woman who wants to be independent, sexy and loved all at the same time. The passages in which Ariel does reveal herself, however fleetingly, are a relief from her serial hook-ups; if only the book provided a few more of these revelations. "I didn't resent [him] so much as I wanted to be him," she says of one of her short-lived boyfriends. "I envied my assholes. All they cared about was their work and themselves. They were never looking for anything long-term so they never got hurt. I wanted to be an isolationist commitment phobe. A jaded Jade. I wanted to be a guy."

By Lori Leibovich

Lori Leibovich is a contributing editor at Salon and the former editor of the Life section.

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