A wildly funny, brilliantly inventive novel about a man torn
between two obsessions: the desperate need to win back
his former wife and a craving to test his erotic charms on
every woman he meets.
He is 6'6" tall, a cross between Ichabod Crane and Abe Lincoln. He is a professor of linguistics, bewitched by language, deluded about his ability to win the hearts of women with his erudition and physical appeal. He is Thomas H. Chippering, a.k.a. Tomcat, a masterly addition to the pantheon of unforgettable characters in American fiction.
And in his private dictionary of love, three entries stand out.
Tampa. Just the word makes Tom Chippering's blood curdle. That's where his ex-wife, the faithless Lorna Sue, now lives with a suntanned tycoon whose name Chippering refuses to utter.
Revenge. If Chippering can't get Lorna Sue back, at least he can wreak havoc with her new marriage. (How about some strategically placed lingerie in the tycoon's "ostentatiously upscale Mercedes"?) He also has plans for Lorna Sue's brother, Herbie, with whom she has always had an unnaturally close relationship.
Love. His ex-wife may have disapproved, but is Chippering's fondness for women--especially the nubile coeds who attend his classes--really so wrong? And now love finds a new form: Mrs. Robert Kooshof, the attractive, demanding, and, of course, already married woman who may at last satisfy Chippering's longing for intimacy.
Tim O'Brien--acclaimed for his fiction about the Vietnam War--has now taken on the battle between the sexes with astonishing results. By turns hilarious, outrageous, romantic, and deeply moving, Tomcat in Love gives us a blundering, modern-day Don Juan who embodies the desires and bewilderments of men everywhere.
I begin 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. "What we need," said Herbie, "is an
The word engine--its meanings beyond mere meaning--began to open up for me. I went into the house and found my father.
"I'll need an engine," I told him.
"Engine?" he said.
"For an airplane." My father thought about it. "Makes sense," he said. "One airplane engine, coming up."
"Soon enough," said my father. "Pronto."
Was this a promise?
Was this duplicity?
Herbie and I waited all summer. We painted our airplane green. We cleared a runway in the backyard, moving the big white birdbath, digging up two of my mother's rhododendrons. We eyed our plane. "What if it crashes?" I said.
Herbie made a scoffing noise. "Parachutes," he said. (A couple of his front teeth were missing, which caused bubbles to form when he laughed at me.) ...
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