Victory for the little guy over bureaucracy!

This was one of those books that once spotted, had to be purchased. A new author to me with an intriguing name and equally interesting book title, a great cover, plus it was an American import that shouted ‘quirky’ at me. There’s nothing I enjoy more than a novel with a bit of quirk in it, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Tepper Isn’t Going Out by Calvin Trillin is a delightful novel about the triumph of the little guy over bureaucracy.

It’s set in NYC, where each street seems to have it’s own set of parking rules like alternate side parking on various days to allow street cleaning. You mustn’t park too close to a fire hydrant, or re-feed meters once parked. So you can imagine that finding an overnight parking space that is ‘good for tomorrow’ is a real challenge. Add to that the Mayor (who is crazy) is obsessed by the city’s parking problems – he seems to think that if he can control parking, the rest will follow.

So meet Murray Tepper, an ageing, mild-mannered businessman, partner in a direct mail targeting company, who likes nothing more than to find a metered parking spot, legally park, then sit in his car reading his newspaper until the meter is about to run out. This exasperates many New Yorkers who think if he’s in his car, he must be ‘going out’ and freeing up the space.

One Sunday, while parked (legally) in one of his favourite spots, a worker from the deli who has spotted him before, pops out for a chat and ends up telling Tepper his problems. Tepper gives him some straight-forward advice which does the trick. Next week, when he parks, there is a queue waiting to talk to him … and as you might guess, word spreads and it starts to get out of hand, especially once the Mayor gets involved for getting his arrested for causing a disturbance when all he wanted to do was legally park and read his paper. The whole situation escalates, but throughout Tepper remains unphazed and convinced that it’ll all work out.

We never find out why Tepper likes to park and read … but it’s an immensely amusing and enjoyable book, written with a journalist’s eye (Trillin is a longtime staff writer for the New Yorker), with some light satire about stupid Mayors, lawyers and stupid local ordnances. Best of all, it celebrates the little guy who doesn’t give in.

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I bought my copy. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
Tepper Isn’t Going Out by Calvin Trillin, Random House 2003, paperback, 224 pages.

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