Summary and book reviews of Tomcat In Love by Tim O'Brien

Tomcat In Love

by Tim O'Brien

Tomcat In Love
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  • First Published:
    Sep 1998, 347 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 1999, 342 pages

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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

Faith

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 engine."

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."

"When?"

"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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Reviews

Media Reviews

The Boston Sunday Globe

Tim O'Brien knows cold the spiraling insularity of obsession. . . . Thomas Chippering . . . is wickedly realized. The agility and intelligence that created this pathos-ridden romantic make one marvel at Tim O'Brien's gifts.

Washington Post David Nicholson

Tomcat in Love is a wonderful novel, laugh-out-loud funny, one of the best books I've come across in years. My advice...is that you waste no more time on this review. Put down the paper. Go out and find a copy of Tomcat in Love. Now.

Publishers Weekly

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.

Globe and Mail - Matt Cohen

Tomcat in Love is well -- sometimes very well -- written. Its plot is carefully worked out and becomes more compelling as the novel proceeds. The characters are only mildly believable, but how believable were the characters in Lolita, another book about a verbally gifted romantic?....Well-written and almost always amusing, Tomcat in Love is an entertaining book from a terrific writer whose real strengths appear to lie elsewhere.

Reader Reviews

k@

Is it just me ... or does he, being Tim O'Brien, seem to know the reader, oh-too-well?
Or could it be Timothy Chippering?


<< Forever no longer means forever. Forever means for a while. Forevermeans untill a pretty young redhead comes along. And so you...   Read More

shecat

I think this is an awesome book for anyone to read. Very hilarious and very touching at the same time. This book is truly a summer reading book, where you can just sit back and read. The plot is very good, and not very predictable. This book ...   Read More

Carlos Williamson


Pretty well-done. But O'Brien 's story telling sometimes got circulated.
Some part was irritating for me.

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