Short stories are on my radar – with Alice Munro winning the Nobel for her short stories and Sarah Hall’s story winning the BBC short story award for her tale of a woman turning into a fox ( a story I have yet to find anywhere in print but the BBC reading was enticing). Tom Perrotta’s Nine Inches on my Kindle was a funny, irreverent collection that had me laughing, crying, musing, and reflecting on my own experiences. With the same quirky perspective he gave to people in crisis in The Leftovers, Perrotta changes ordinary events into devastating moments.
Each of the ten short stories focuses on a dreary middle-class suburbanite facing inner turmoil for an irretrievable life mistake, and emerging changed through events that could happen anywhere to anyone. The only problem – each story has a depressing, nevertheless realistic, ending. After reading the first six, I stopped.
The title refers to middle school teachers using a piece of nine-inch tape to measure and enforce safe space between students who are slow dancing, with the focus on one teacher who reminisces on his lost chances. “Senior Season” targets a football player who suffers a head injury that keeps him from playing; “Grade My Teacher” focuses on a teacher obsessed with her online evaluations and ranking; “Kiddie Pool” has a man discovering his wife’s infidelity when he sneaks into his dead neighbor’s garage to use his pump to inflate a pool for his grandchildren; “The Smile on Happy Chang’s Face” – the most enjoyable of the lot – targets the rivalry between coaches of a Little League game with a talented young girl as the pitcher.
Good stories…well written…maybe I’ll go back to read the rest later.
I’m about halfway through this collection and really enjoying it. Having taught at a suburban elementary school for many years, I find Perrotta a reliable reporter of the dark side of suburbia.
Yes, you are so right about the “dark side.” Just watched Maggie Smith in “Keeping Mum” – enjoyed those dark side incidents too. Have you seen it?
Hmmm, I wonder if I’d enjoy Perrotta more in short stories.
Did you read The Leftovers?
I did, and The Abstinence Teacher. Both left me quite flat, although I know many people really like his writing. I find his writing clear enough, but his stories just feel lacking in dimension to me. I’m wondering if in short story form he may appeal to me more.
Not so much his writing which I enjoy, it’s his perspective. I need to be ready to come out of my usual fictional world where “all is right” – even if that’s not very realistic.
I can see that. I was attracted to the books because of the perspective they offered.