Murray Tepper would say that he is an ordinary New Yorker who is simply trying to read the newspaper in peace. But he reads while sitting behind the wheel of his parked car, and his car always seems to be in a particularly desirable parking spot. Not surprisingly, he is regularly interrupted by drivers who want to know if he is going out. Tepper isn’t going out. Why not? His explanations tend to be rather literal: the indisputable fact, for instance, that he has twenty minutes left on the meter. Tepper’s behavior sometimes irritates the people who want his spot. (“Is that where you live? Is that car rent-controlled?”) It also irritates the mayor—Frank Ducavelli, known in tabloid headlines as Il Duce—who sees Murray Tepper as a harbinger of what His Honor always calls “the forces of disorder.” But once New Yorkers become aware of Tepper, some of them begin to suspect that he knows something they don’t know. And an ever-increasing number of them are willing to line up for the opportunity to sit in his car with him and find out. Tepper Isn’t Going Out is a wise and witty story of an ordinary man who, perhaps innocently, changes the world around him.
The main character, Tepper, is a hobbyist parker. He finds a legal spot and squats there, because he actually isn’t going out. This strange habit eventually makes it into the newspapers, turning Tepper into a kind of modern-day guru on the mountaintop. New Yorkers make the journey to his current parking spot to ask his advice on any subject.
Eventually, Tepper’s parking habit entangles him with the mayor of New York, who is obsessed with keeping order (and who is not-so-subtly modeled on pre-9/11 Rudy Giuliani), and so the story gets rolling, culminating in street riots, demonstrations, trials – but all conducted in a very quiet, orderly manner. It’s a subtly humorous book that will make anyone want to go parking, but not go out.
Good read but you may have to be a New Yorker to appreciate all the nuances.
Why is he doing this? Nostaligia for the days when he couldn't afford a garage and finding a legal, long-term spot was both a necessity and a triumph? Mid-life crisis? Or some deeper plot? All Murray will say is that he is legally parked and not going out.
This is a funny book -- a bit of a satire on city politics, fame and folk heroes. A real pleasure to read -- you'll like Murry Tepper and, like so many characters in the novel, want to sit in the car with him and listen to what he doesn't really say.
Since it's by Calvin Trillin, those familiar with Calvin Trillin probably already know this is filled with quirky, gentle comedy, and that it's almost a disappointment when it turns out to have a plot.
Trillin transported me to residential Manhattan and the detailed know-how necessary to park legally and well. It's as if somebody said, "Calvin, parking is the most boring subject on earth. I dare you to write a book about it that people will enjoy reading."
He won the bet. This book makes me want to go sit in my car and read the paper, but it won't be any fun unless I can get my husband to install a parking meter in the front yard.