from my bookshelf: tomcat in love by tim o’brien

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thomas chippering is a self-absorbed, witty, and utterly lost, college professor. his love life and outlook on relationships may drive you insane and probably remind you of a few people you already know; he constantly wants what he does not have. tim o’brien changes scenes between chippering’s childhood and adulthood. tomcat in love is premised as a “love story,” (albeit, no happy endings here), but is more a testament to human relationships: friendships, romances, and family dynamics. it is nostalgic, confusing, heartbreaking, and irresistible.

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“Does language contain history the way plywood contains flight? Are we bruised each day of our lives by syllabic collisions, our spirits slashed by combinations of vowel and consonant? At a cocktail party, say, or at a ball game, or at our daughter’s wedding, would you feel Death slide between your ribs if someone were to utter the name of your ex-husband? Can a color cause bad dreams? Can a cornfield make you cry? Do we irradiate language by the lives we lead? Angel, engine, cross, Indian, plywood, Pontiac, mattress, rabbit guts and mice . . . Is your ex still in the tropics? Is he happy?”

“Under the circumstances, to be frank, her suggestion struck me as tempting. Recent developments had strained my emotional boundaries, and for a few moments I envisioned life in the cool, uncomplicated confines of a north-country igloo. No visitors. Certainly no women. Perhaps a perimeter of land mines to keep out the riffraff.”

“In an age chilled by purgative sexual politics, feminine extortion has become the bane of all who trod the bleak, arctic halls of academia.”

“Familiarity breeds cheekiness, if not outright contempt.”

“Despite all odds, the human spirit endures beyond endurance, denying despair, salvaging hope in a rainbow or a birdsong or a simple sunset.”

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