A Glimpse of Tiger

A Glimpse of Tiger

infobox Book |
name = A Glimpse of Tiger
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption =
author = Herman Raucher
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Novel
publisher = Putnam
pub_date = 1971
english_pub_date =
media_type = Print (Hardcover)
pages = 223 pp
isbn = NA
preceded_by =
followed_by =

A Glimpse of Tiger is a 1971 novel by Herman Raucher. It was his first original novel; his previous (and first) novel, Summer of '42, was based on his own screenplay of the same name, and written at the request of Warner Brothers as a means of promoting the film. It tells the story of Tiger and Luther, a pair of young Bohemian con artists living together in an apartment in New York City in 1971. The novel follows the archetype for a romantic comedy, but employs an original twist ending in its final chapter. Though the book became a best-seller, it never matched the success of Summer of '42, although it was embraced by critics, with the Boston Globe dubbing it "A strange and moving tale with a shocker climax."

Plot summary

The novel follows the archetypical format of a romantic comedy, boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy loses girl, boy tries many whacky schemes to win girl back.

The novel's main character is the eponymous "Tiger," a nineteen year old girl who has run away from her home in Indianapolis because of pressure put on her by her parents. There she meets Luther, a playful con artist who takes her in and becomes her lover; together, the two become a pair of grifters, surviving by sneaking into charity benefits for food and eating free samples at department stores, and by scamming subway passengers into believing that Luther is a blind singer in need of donations. In spite of being a great lover, Luther is incredibly immature, always assuming other personalities and playing games instead of engaging in meaningful conversation or forming real connections with people; Tiger actually knows very little about him. Whenever she tries to get him to talk about himself, he engages in a role-playing game, assuming identities such as "The Mad Bomber of London" or Dracula, and then going about his daily routine in this persona. Luther sees no need to evolve beyond his current position in life as an essential thief whose only other real activities are repairing antique toys and cheating at Monopoly.

One day, on a whim, Luther invites a homeless schemer named Theodore "Fat" Chance to move in with him, after having known the man for less than half an hour. Fat brings with him Leon, a silent, rodent-like man, and together the two begin plotting to turn Luther and Tiger's apartment into a phone-sex operation. Tiger is furious and threatens to leave Luther, but Luther reassures her that the men will not be living with them long. Shortly thereafter, though, Tiger returns home one night from grocery shopping to find that Fat has overdosed on some unidentified drug. Although he pulls through, the incident frightens Tiger enough that she decides to leave Luther and move ahead with her life.

At this point in the novel, the narration begins to switch from third person to first person, with italicized segments being narrated by Luther, in what appear to either be letters, journal entries, or direct addresses to the reader. While the third person segments detail Tiger's attempts to re-enter proper society, moving into a YWCA and getting a job as a typist at a law firm, Luther's first person narrations document his attempts to win her back.

Tiger puts Luther at the back of her mind and is successful with her plans of becoming part of proper society; she befriends a secretary at her law firm, and is (briefly) promoted to being the personal assistant to one of the firm's lawyers, a handsome, middle aged, sexually aggressive attorney who keeps a couch in his office for the purpose of seducing his unending line of personal assistants. He attempts to sleep with Tiger on her first day as his assistant, and while she initially considers it, she recants at the last minute, resulting in her being demoted back to a typist.

Meanwhile, Luther begins showing up at the YWCA where Tiger works, attempting to woo her back. She refuses to come back to him, but Luther recognizes her passionate denouncement of him as evidence that she still possesses some feelings for him. Back at his apartment, Leon leaves, speaking his only words in the book ("Au revoir"), followed sometime later by Fat, who goes off to seek his fortunes elsewhere. At the same time, Luther's electricity is shut off for non-payment, and his spare time becomes dedicated to writing to his vacationing, rich parents for money, and worrying over his sudden sporadic bed wetting.

Back at the law firm, Tiger's secretary friend sets her up on a date with an optometrist named Steven, whom Tiger develops a fondness for. On one of their dates, to a Russian restaurant, Luther shows up, performing one of his old grifter routines, pretending to be a Russian waiter. He nearly gets into a fight with Steven, prompting a pair of real waiters to try and eject Luther from the premises. Breaking from his usual pattern of abandoning a character when caught, Luther instead jumps on another diner's table and pretends to be Al Jolson, before assuming the persona of a juggler and hurling people's food at them, sparking a small riot in the restaurant. Luther ends up with his nose broken, but escapes, and in a first-person segment, wonders to himself why he felt compelled to shift characters rather than escape. Briefly wondering if he may be part Russian, he travels to the Russian embassy and requests asylum, which he is naturally not granted.

Tiger, meanwhile, is promoted again, this time as the assistant of an absentminded attorney for whom she becomes an invaluable Girl Friday. She also continues to date Steven, and considers starting a friendly relationship with Luther, whom she is concerned about due to his actions at the restaurant. One day he shows up at the law firm, dressed in a gaudy, mis-matched suit, and pulls a routine on the clerks there, earning a large amount of cash by pretending to be collecting for an absentee typist's baby shower. Luther shows the money to Tiger and asks her to come back to him, but she refuses. She comes home that night to find Luther waiting in her room. He asks her to come back to him one last time, and Tiger explains to him that, while he may be happy with a meaningless, carefree life, she wants to feel some purpose to her existence. Luther sadly acknowledges this, and agrees to let her go.

The next day, Tiger is typing when "The Mad Bomber of London" phones into the office to say that he's going to blow up the building. Everyone evacuates except Tiger, who remains at her desk working, knowing that it's another one of Luther's games.

In the novel's twist ending, a series of Luther's first-person narratives, tying into his earlier behavior at the restaurant and belief that he is a Russian, reveal that his behavior throughout the novel has not been the cliché actions of a hero in a romantic comedy, but the depraved workings of an obsessed stalker. His narratives degenerate into non-sensical ramblings about breaking his nose on New Year's eve and bizarre rants about God's bodily functions and hatred for Christianity. In the book's closing third person segments, Luther stands on a street corner watching Tiger's law firm, as the bomb he planted there detonates, and Tiger is killed, her co-workers frantically running around the flaming wreckage looking for her as the now fully insane Luther envisions himself on a beach, finding Tiger as a young girl and then walking away with her to go back home.

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