Tom Violet is closing in on 35, and he has a number of problems. He cannot achieve the physical state necessary to have sex with his beautiful wife. His daughter Allie has drawn a picture of his mom’s new male “friend” to put on the refrigerator. His Pulitzer-prize winning and notoriously philandering father is not only distant, but has cast a huge shadow over Tom’s life. Tom works at a fatuous sell-out job writing corporate blurbs instead of writing a novel like he wants to do. And Katie, his young nubile assistant at work, is looking better to him every day.
This is not a sad sack Walter Mitty type of tale; rather, it is a very clever and funny story that ends on a much more upbeat note than did James Thurber’s story. Some of it will make you laugh out loud, and some of the more wistful parts can engender a few tears.
Tom is intelligent, good-looking, witty, self-deprecating and self-destructive – a more or less faithful image of his famous father, Curtis. Curtis suspects Tom will make the same mistakes he did, and curiously begins to get involved in his son’s life. But it is separation from his father that Tom really needs to live a life that is all his own, instead of an imitation of the hero whose attention he could never quite hold.
Evaluation: There’s not much more to the book except good writing, a lot of cleverness – maybe too much for real people to have – and a genuinely fun story to read. But what’s wrong with that?!! I have to say I like the similar Jonathan Tropper and Shalom Auslander better, but only because they add a bit of ethnic piquancy to an already satisfying meal.
Published by Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2011