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Tomcat in Love    by Tim O'Brien Amazon.com order for
Tomcat in Love
by Tim O'Brien
Order:  USA  Can
Broadway, 2014 (1998)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* *   Reviewed by Carrol Wolverton

Wonderfully linguistic, Professor (no less) Thomas H. Chippering is an amoral, sociopathic, egotistical cad with no redemption in sight. He brags of his good looks, his IQ of 175, 6'6 stature and how women are drawn to him. He draws back without shame. His weakness is Lorna Sue, whom he has loved from youth. Sadly, she is more flawed than he, with deep psychological problems, and that help bring about his ruin. His own devious actions and weak behaviors contribute nicely.

Just as some people hear music in their minds and relate life events to music, this tom cat relates to words and pops them out like a popcorn popper. The words have no relevance to each other, but they do relate to unfortunate life events and keep re-popping. Word use and discussion is the salvation of the novel. There is little salvation, however, for the progagonist.

The author uses dramatic asides to comment on the supposed life of the reader and raises questions as to whether she knows how she has been betrayed. 'Do you know where your husband is?' he asks. Yes, I do. He's asleep in his favorite chair where he is every afternoon.

Women exist for Chippering's self-gratification. His very life exists for admiration. As a professior, he's on campus surrounded by blossoming beauties. He doesn't seen to touch as much as leer. One lear-ee blackmails him into writing her dessertation and ultimately costs him his position. He's scared of feminists and folds when challenged by authority.

His major problems are women related. His first and only love fixation rejects him. She has her own problems (she's a mutilating picker). More issues are revealed as the novel progresses. Her brother is overly protective, and tom cat long suspects and intimates incest. The one woman who does love him doesn't have a first name for most of the novel.

There is a Vietnam past and mutual betrayal. There's at least one mental breakdown. He plots revenge against all. They all plot back. Our tom cat pretty much loses out for 99.8% of the novel and only achieves some measure of redumption in the last paragraphs. It's too late for the reader who wished him neutered after the first few chapters.

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