A CLASSIC FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE THINGS THEY CARRIED
In this wildly funny, brilliantly inventive novel, Tim O'Brien has created the ultimate character for our times. Thomas Chippering, a 6'6" professor of linguistics, is a man torn between two obsessions: the desperate need to win back his former wife, the faithless Lorna Sue, and a craving to test his erotic charms on every woman he meets.
But there are complications, including Lorna Sue's brother, Herbie, with whom she has an all-too-close relationship, and the considerable charms of Chippering's new love, the attractive, and of course already married, Mrs. Robert Kooshof, who may at last satisfy Chippering's longing for intimacy.
In Tomcat in Love, Tim O'Brien takes on the battle of the sexes with astonishing results. By turns hilarious, outrageous, romantic, and deeply moving, this is one of the most talked about novels in years: a novel for this and every age.
All of O'Brien's previous six novels, except perhaps The Nuclear Age, have a Vietnam War experience at their core. Men (and women) at war--and warring with war's aftermath--are themes that have sustained O'Brien's gifted narrative rushes and his beautiful prose, garnering him high praise, including a National Book Award (for Going After Cacciato). After the mixed reception of In the Lake of the Woods, O'Brien said he would stop writing fiction for a while. His return here will be welcomed by his many fans, but he is not in top form. The "Tomcat" of the title is one Thomas Chippering, a 6'6'' professor of linguistics whose wife has left him for "a tycoon in Tampa." Chippering narrates his woes, his scheme for revenge, the background to what he insists is his deep love for the departed Lorna Sue, all the while pursuing nubile coeds and the wife of a convicted tax felon. Although the book is being positioned as a comedy, Chippering is a most obnoxious companion, so terribly self-deluded, self-absorbed and self-satisfied, so pedantic and boorish, so convinced of his own charms that the unfolding drama of his pursuit of revenge becomes discomfiting. We want to root for his ex-wife, but through the Chippering "song of myself" we don't hear her, or know her. The Vietnam experience here, what there is of it, is ludicrously, and even disrespectfully, invoked by Chippering, who will remind those who attempt to resist his advances that he is a war hero. Although O'Brien is on interesting ground laying out Chippering's childhood crush on Lorna Sue in 1950s Minnesota, the book careens toward an unconvincing portrait of madness that is irritatingly flippant and shrill. BOMC and QPB alternates.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I love Tim O'Brien. In so many ways, direct and in metaphor, his is the voice of the men of our shared generation. But this book threw me a curve. I thought it meandering and repetitive and it made me impatient. It also made me laugh and provided me with a few excellent one-liners. In the main, though, I have to say that it gave me little of the pleasure I expect from his writing.
So why four stars? Because buried in all my uncertainty is the knowledge that once again, he has my number. And whatever I may think about the merits, the meaning, or the feel of this unlikely book, it will make me think and reflect. That's good for four stars any day.