If chick books a la ''Bridget Jones'' are as passe as boy bands, boy books are just now blooming. Get set for literature, by men and for men, about the travails of the hungry bachelor. The editor of Maxim, for one, will make his fiction debut next month with such a novel, but for now, we're stuck with entertainment journalist Rick Marin, the author of Cad, a nonfiction adventure tracking his exploits as a half-Latin (and half-Canadian) lover and full-time ladies' man.
The only hitch? This isn't a book for guys. Look at the cover. Whose dark eyes are those staring at me in close-up above the title? ''You know him,'' promises the jacket copy. ''He's the funny, sweet guy with the great eyes who asks you a million questions and seems mesmerized by your every reply.'' Who? Not my optometrist, surely. ''He takes you on the greatest, longest date of your life.'' Ohhhh, I gotcha: ''You'' is not me, since I'm a man; ''he'' of the jacket copy is me, an unattached shark in the dating pool. And this is the book that, for the benefit of all ''you'' ladies, purports to pull the pants off Rick Marin, me, and heterosexual males everywhere.
The nerve. What a betrayal -- right, guys?! Not really. He's just fooling. I object not because Marin offers unfettered access to all my manly weapons of mass seduction, but because he's a little too cute about it. In real life, Marin definitely behaved badly with the horny Nova Scotian, the Hamptons-hopping Jewish princess, the med student with scabies, the former topless dancer with herpes, and the big-breasted Trekkie with a Ph.D. in Tolkien studies -- to cite just a few of the women who whoosh by -- on his way up in the magazine business. But on the page, it feels like Marin is merely playing the cad to incite, but never alienate, his female readers. Being a cad is his unconvincing shtick, and keeping it tame and droll is his blandly calculated ploy to keep everyone in his corner. Near the end, he kicks a sexologist out of bed. ''She was gone in time for 'Beavis and Butt-head,''' he notes dryly. Sure she was, you cad.
Men, especially we real cads, won't be bamboozled. Reading the book is like watching a slimeball mack on a chick, but why stay in and read when you can go out and mack on your own? Eh, fellas? [Diabolical laughter.] C
I've met my fair share of dogs. A single girl walks into a bar, and they come sniffing. Cads. Can't trust them, can't sit around waiting for them to call. But here's the thing. For all the bad boys I've loved before, none of them was asthmatic. And therein lies the problem with Rick Marin's mating memoir. He fancies himself a rogue (the jacket copy promises ''part Hugh Hefner, part Hugh Grant''), but he carries an inhaler and has the theme song from Secret Agent Man on his answering machine. He's the guy in the office who hits on the intern. I was promised a cad, but got set up with a boob.
Marin's signature move is taking off his glasses, staring blearily at his date, and sharing the pain of his recent divorce. You'd be surprised how many women fall for this stuff! The ex-stripper, the subsidized book editor. Even Moira Kelly, a B actress (''The Cutting Edge'') whom Marin is assigned to profile, gives him her number. His shamelessness -- and these girls' poor taste -- makes for an occasionally amusing, easy read. You can hold the book in one hand, the remote in the other, and flip between ''The Bachelorette'' and the bachelor without missing a grope. (And would I love to see Trista gut his ego like a fish.)
If only there were more surprises here. But chapters titled ''Why Are You Being Such a Jerk?'' ''I'm Emotionally Vulnerable -- And I'm Seeing Someone,'' and ''You Can't Break Up With Me On The Phone!'' serve up exactly what you'd expect: a familiar routine of pseudo-sleaze. Guy tries to score. Usually doesn't (''One in ten is a good month. Most of the time you feel like Willy Loman''). Finally hooks a live one. Balks (''How could I tell her I wasn't ready to be domesticated, housebroken?''). Retreats to the topless bar. His single days are a blur of rather average bad behavior.
So I can't in good conscience recommend this ''Cad'' to my friends. Not when there are so many other books, sharper and funnier examinations of men and women and sex, in the sea. But I don't regret our time together. We had a couple of laughs, and the whole thing was really over before it started. But that's as far the affair will go. Maybe I just didn't get the author's jokes. Or his appeal. It's not you, baby. It's me. C+