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Tomcat in Love Paperback – September 1, 1999
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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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
You have never met anyone in literature like Tom Chippering. You can't help but pull for the guy. The story is engrossing, hilarious, and often quite moving. Love, revenge, memory, friendships, new beginnings, letting go, devastation. Even if you are not much interested in the English language, you will never look at it the same way again.
I don't want to say much more about the plot, but I will say that it is constantly riveting. At the end, I cried. I'm not sure why...perhaps, sadness or happiness or emotional exhaustion...perhaps, as Tom would say, I'll never know.
I do know you should order and read this book immediately. O'Brien only enhances his status as my favorite living american writer. There is no equal.
Tomcat in Love is the darkly comic story of Minnesota resident, Thomas Chippering, a pompous, middle-aged Professor of Linguistics who has deluded himself into thinking he's irresistible to women...all of them. As Chippering, himself, says, "My celebrated biweekly seminars...are almost always booked to the limit with attentive, worshipful, ardent young lollipops eager to widen their horizons." Not since Nabokov created Humbert Humbert, has there been a more thoroughly unlikable and self-deceiving central character or one whom we so much love to hate.
Chippering is definitely a man in love with words. "Words," he says, "have genuine substance, mass and weight and specific gravity." In fact, it is words and his knowledge of them, that places Chippering far above the ordinary man and woman. For, although Chippering flirts outrageously with every woman he meets, they all rebuff him, a problem Chippering falsely attributes to their far inferior linguistic skills. It's not that he's unattractive, he thinks, women have simply failed to appreciate him. The sad truth is, Chippering has been betrayed by the very words he loves so much. He does possess the skill to manipulate words, but at the cost of being able to feel even one honest emotion, about himself or others.Read more ›
I usually find it difficult to enjoy a novel with a protagonist I can't admire. But Thomas Chippering is so delighfully self delusional that you can't help but giggle as he digs himself in deeper with every scheme he contrives. And yet amazingly you find yourself rooting for this buffoon as reaches new depths of social ineptitude. Other reviewers mention that Chippering is an unreliable narrator, but it is important to realize that he actually believes all the lies he is telling. Half the fun of reading this comic novel is reading between the lines to distinguish where what is really happening diverges from what Chippering is telling you.
This is a funny, funny book. Even so, it confronts the reader with many serious issues, particularly the objectification of women. There's plenty to think about while you are laughing at the characters. That's one reason this book stays with you much longer than most comic novels.
I gave a copy of this novel to my father, and after he finished it he sent it along to my brother. Tim O'Brien is exactly a generation between me and my father, and while there's plenty we can't see eye to eye on, we both found this novel extremely entertaining.
Tim O'Brien is a treasure. Read this book!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is only my second review of a novel that I was unable to finish reading. I make it a point to review books only if I have read them in their entirety, but TOMCAT IN LOVE is... Read morePublished 18 months ago by R. M. Peterson
Tomcat in Love is tightly written, gives a long-shot view of how many of us carry emotional baggage throughout our lives, and lays before us a main character we love to hate and... Read morePublished 23 months ago by janetruth
My third reading. Better every time. Tim O'Brien has a way of casting the reader in the role of shrink. It's okay with me, Tim.Published on July 10, 2014 by mary s corcoran
The book's first pages are so intriguing and well written. It seems to lay out a beautiful journey with a unique style. Read morePublished on June 9, 2014 by pauleybee
O'Brien is one of our best living writers. Fascinating goofy characters here. Amazing stretch for this author. Long live Tim! More more more...Published on November 14, 2013 by John S
Tim O'brien is a great of our era. He went outside of his usual style to weave a great tale. enough said.Published on June 25, 2013 by David Woodman
I'm a big Tim O'Brien fan, but I could not stand this book's main character or it's narrative style. I had to quit after 15 pages.Published on May 31, 2013 by James Peard
Book is a little seasoned. It's also over 20 years old. For me, that makes it in pretty doggone good shape. 5 stars for superlative service. Read morePublished on May 20, 2013 by the Mindworm
It was fairly funny but about 3/4 thru the humor was poor and much was based on women, even girl children.Published on January 21, 2013 by Avid reader