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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Tom Perrotta at Barnes & Noble

I remember reading author Tom Perrotta's novel Little Children in one sitting, totally enthralled by his story of a suburban mom who has an affair with a dad she meets at the playground. It is a stunning work, and was turned into a terrific movie.

Perrotta has written a short story collection, Nine Inches, and he appeared at Barnes & Noble on 86th Street in NYC to read from and discuss the new collection. I read the first story, Backrub, while waiting for the reading. It tells the story of a young, intelligent senior in high school who for some strange reason didn't get into any of the colleges where he applied.
Tom Perrotta
All of his friends have left for college and he is working as a pizza delivery man. His parents want him to volunteer for an organization in Africa, but he just can't bring himself to do it. He gets pulled over by a local cop, an odd man, and his life is going nowhere quickly.

Perrotta read a story, The Test Taker, about a high school senior who is involved in a scheme to take the SAT test for other students for money. Perrotta said that his daughter was at this stage in her life, getting ready to go to college and all that entails, and that informed many of the stories in this book.

During the Q&A, I asked him if he was anxious about this as both of these stories, and few more in the collection, seemed to indicate that. He laughed a little and said that in the town where he lives, he has seen the stress that this time of life has placed on people.

One thing he said that really intrigued me is that this generation of parents (my generation) identifies more with their children than with their parents, and that is something that has changed. I totally agree with him, and wonder if this is why some parents are so unwilling to discipline their children or believe that their children could possibly do anything wrong.

A good writer is an observer and judging from the two stories I read and having gone through this period a few years ago with my two sons, I can say that Perrotta's observations are keen indeed. He just puts you right into his characters' lives, and to be able to do that so well in short story format is a talent he well possesses.

Tom Perrotta's website is here.


  1. Interesting observation about parents identifying more with their children than with their own parents. Gives me lots to think about. We'll discuss over some wine someday. :)