Critic Ross Douthat has panned Damsels in Distress in National Review magazine (May 14, 2002).  He writes, “If the world of Damsels . . . isn’t the real one to begin with, then how much can we care about the characters’ struggles to build up their own equally unreal alternatives?”  I suppose the answer is that we can’t care about these struggles–but it doesn’t matter.  We know Violet is eccentric; we care about the values she endorses, such as self-improvement.  And we care about those messages and implications I mentioned which filter through in the basically tame world Stillman has created.