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Tomcat in Love by Tim O'Brien
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Tomcat in Love (1998)

by Tim O'Brien

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
O'Brien always seems to dig into these nooks and crannies of the psyche that go unexplored by most authors. Here, the awful, awful titular character dwells on the unique characteristics words take on when coupled with experience. It's unnerving in a way that I'm having trouble describing (just like some parts of The Lake of the Woods chilled me in some fundamental way that I still can't unpack, years after reading it).

Anyway, this is a really well-written book, and as loathsome as Chippering is, I think O'Brien turns a mirror around a bit to point it back at the reader. The satire works, too, though I can't figure out how some reviewers pegged this as a straight-up ha-ha comedy. It's a comedy in the classic Greek sense, I guess.... ( )
  wordsampersand | Dec 6, 2018 |
Here is the story of a man who literally has to fight off the women. All of the women in his life are seriously and instantly attracted to him. ...Or at least that's how Tom sees it.

To the rest of us, Tom is a mysogenistic narcissist--and has been for years.

When his wife leaves him to marry a man whom he won't even name, but simply calls "tycoon"...Tom's grip of reality starts to falter. From public spankings, black mail, live crying fits/suicide threats on television to his old Vietnam 'buddies' who promised to enter his life again...to kill him--Tom needs some help.

The ONLY thing that killed the book for me was the last 30 pages. I would have preferred a different ending. Regardless, you should read it and see if you agree with me or not. ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
Here is the story of a man who literally has to fight off the women. All of the women in his life are seriously and instantly attracted to him. ...Or at least that's how Tom sees it.

To the rest of us, Tom is a mysogenistic narcissist--and has been for years.

When his wife leaves him to marry a man whom he won't even name, but simply calls "tycoon"...Tom's grip of reality starts to falter. From public spankings, black mail, live crying fits/suicide threats on television to his old Vietnam 'buddies' who promised to enter his life again...to kill him--Tom needs some help.

The ONLY thing that killed the book for me was the last 30 pages. I would have preferred a different ending. Regardless, you should read it and see if you agree with me or not. ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
All of the reviews quoted on the cover of Tomcat in Love call it a "comic novel," or "wildly funny," or "laugh-out-loud funny." I closed the book and looked at those reviews multiple times during my reading. The main character is sort of a hapless guy. He's a professor of linguistics in Minnesota, a Vietnam veteran, a man who is irresistible to women (don't believe that? Just ask him, he'll tell you) - and yet, things seem to always turn out wrong for him. He married his childhood sweetheart, Lorna Sue, but she's since left him and married a tycoon with a stupid name. The problem is that Thomas just can't let go, no matter what his pursuit of her does to his life.

Sounds hilarious, right?

It is, kind of. It reminded me of an Elmore Leonard novel being put into a blender with Catch-22 and about a third of Tristram Shandy, and then someone sneaking in a dash of A Confederacy of Dunces. (Full disclosure: I absolutely hated A Confederacy of Dunces, but I cannot help but note some similarities between Ignatius T. Reilly and Thomas H. Chippering). O'Brien has a way of mixing the heartbreaking, the true, and the ridiculous together from paragraph to paragraph, and he does that frequently here. I felt like the book was maybe just a tad over-long, but I'm not sure what could be cut. I just know that my reading pace slowed in the latter part.

Recommended for: fans of breaking the fourth wall, logophiles, people who don't mind the absurd mixed in with their pathos (or vice versa).

Quote: "The shortest distance between two points may well be a straight line, but one must remember that efficiency is not the only narrative virtue." ( )
  ursula | Apr 21, 2013 |
i love all of his work. ( )
  julierh | Apr 7, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
--ELIZABETH BISHOP
Dedication
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It began with the ridiculous, in June 1952, middle-century Minnesota, on that silvery-hot morning when Herbie Zylstra and I nailed two plywood boards together and called it an airplane.
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I have discovered through trial and error, primarily the latter, that none of us stands at the helm of life's great ocean liner; control is an illusion; destination itself is a pitiful chimera; we are at best mere passengers aboard a drifting vessel, some of us in steerage, some in first class, all at the whim of a ghostly crew and passing icebergs.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0767902041, Paperback)

To date, Tim O'Brien's novels have all shared common traits: his heroes hail from the Midwest, usually Minnesota; Vietnam figures prominently; and the stories he tells, though invested with mordant wit, are usually pretty grim. So an O'Brien fan coming to Tomcat in Love on the heels of his earlier novels can be forgiven for occasionally checking the name on the cover (and the photo on the dust jacket) just to be sure this is, indeed, the same Tim O'Brien who wrote Going After Cacciato, The Things They Carried, If I Die in a Combat Zone, and In the Lake of the Woods.

In Tomcat in Love O'Brien introduces us to a very different hero: "In summary, then, my circumstances were these. Something over forty-nine years of age. Recently divorced. Pursued. Prone to late-night weeping. Betrayed not once but threefold: by the girl of my dreams, by her Pilate of a brother, and by a Tampa real-estate tycoon whose name I have vowed never again to utter." Thomas H. Chippering, professor of linguistics, war hero, and sex magnet--in his own mind, at least, has recently lost his childhood sweetheart and wife of 20 years to another man, the Tampa magnate, and Lorna Sue's desertion has clearly unhinged him. He has taken to flying down to Tampa from Minnesota on weekends to spy on his ex-wife and plot revenge against her, the tycoon, and Lorna Sue's brother, Herbie, whom he blames for destroying his marriage.

Thomas, Lorna Sue, and Herbie go back a long way together, bound equally by ties of love, guilt, and suspicion. Dating from the afternoon young Herbie nailed an even younger Lorna Sue's hand to a makeshift cross, Thomas has occupied a kind of emotional no man's land between the two: "In my bleakest moods, when black gets blackest, I think of it as a high perversion: Herbie coveted his own sister. Which is a fact. The stone truth. He was in love with her. More generously, I will sometimes concede that it was not sexual love, or not entirely, and that Herbie was driven by the obsessions of a penitent, a torturer turned savior. Partly, too, I am quite certain that Herbie secretly associated me with his own guilt. I was present at the beginning. My backyard, my plywood, my green paint."

Chippering takes his revenge to hilarious lengths, starting with a purple leather bra and panties stuffed beneath the seat of the tycoon's car and escalating from there. But even as he attempts to wreak havoc in his ex-wife's life, he succeeds in laying ruin to his own. His self-proclaimed irresistibility to women gets him in hot water with both his female students and his administration; his obsession with Lorna Sue threatens his budding romance with Mrs. Robert Kooshof, a woman who loves him as his wife never did--and, oh yes, there's that little matter of the squad of Green Berets he crossed many years before in Vietnam who may or may not be hunting him down.

Once you get over the shock of this new, funny Tim O'Brien, traces of the writer you thought you knew begin to surface. Chippering might be a pompous, overbearing windbag, but you can't trust him any more than you did any of O'Brien's other earthier, equally unreliable narrators. In one breath, he tells us, "I must in good conscience point out that women find me attractive beyond words. And who on earth could blame them?" In the next he describes himself as resembling "a clean-shaven version of our sixteenth president." Half the fun of reading Tomcat in Love is trying to sort out just how much of what Thomas H. Chippering tells us is true. Stellar writing, a brilliant cast of characters, and a sly, surprising story that breaks your heart one minute and tickles your funny bone the next all make Tim O'Brien's first foray into the comic novel a resounding success. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:48 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Even as he plots revenge on his wife for abandoning him for another man Thomas Chippering, a professor of linguistics cannot free himself of his obsession with women. He makes a pass at a student who blackmails him into giving her good marks. A look at a womanizer.… (more)

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