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Tepper Isn't Going Out    by Calvin Trillin order for
Tepper Isn't Going Out
by Calvin Trillin
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2001 (2001)
Hardcover, Audio, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by David Pitt

I suppose I should begin by admitting I am an enormous fan of Trillin's delightful essays (he's been writing for The New Yorker forever), and that I've read, and read again, most of his books. So if you're expecting an entirely objective review, you might be disappointed.

This is, I'll try to contain my enthusiasm here, a joyous novel. Murray Tepper, the New York executive who likes to spend his spare time sitting in his car in a variety of parking spots, is a charming creation. Why does Murray like to park? Well, it's complicated: he keeps his car in a garage now, see, and he misses the challenge, the excitement, of searching every evening for a parking space, especially the Holy Grail of parking spots, the 'good for tomorrow' space, where he could park tonight and not have to move again until the next day. There is another reason why Tepper isn't going out - translation: is staying where he is, just parked, with no plans to vacate - but I can't reveal that to you.

Most of the novel takes place in, or near, Tepper's car. The man has a day job - he's a partner in a company that uses mailing lists to help advertisers sell their products - and we do see him at work a couple of times, but mostly he's just hanging out, sitting in his car by the side of the road, reading the paper or explaining to random passersby why he's there: 'I've got a dollar and a half invested in this spot,' is his usual response, or some variation indicating that he still has time on the parking meter. He isn't a very philosophical guy, our Murray.

As the novel progresses, odd things begin to happen: a reporter writes an article about him, he has a couple of run-ins with the police (they keep wanting to charge him with something), and he accumulates an ever-larger group of acquaintances who like to stop by, have a seat in Tepper's car, and just ... talk. Suddenly there are agents, and book deals, and front-page news stories. Tepper, who just wanted to enjoy a little peace and quiet, is a celebrity.

Tepper Isn't Going Out is a gentle novel, lightly humorous; its characters (like the Mayor, Frank Ducavelli, better known as Il Duce) are slightly larger than life, but not uncomfortably so; and the dialogue is witty without being coy about it. There is a very lovely surprise at the end of the novel, but if you think I'm going to reveal it here, you're crazy. Go read the book.

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