I’ve loved Tom Perrotta’s writing since I saw him read aloud from Bad Haircut, his first collection of short stories about the 80s, when I was in college. Since then he’s written some beauties like Election (made into a film with Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick) and The Leftovers (recently adapted into an HBO miniseries). However, in Nine Inches, he returns to the short story genre, and I have to say, this particular collection really resonated with me.
Maybe because the first story addresses the issue of the over-stressed, over-achieving high school senior. I teach AP students, and with the recent May 1 signing day for college, the stress level was through the roof. At first, the narrator in the short story seems to be likable, but then we realize what he’s done to sabotage himself in the end–and for some reason, for me at least, that almost made him even more likable. There are a number of stories in here that will speak to you as teachers–one explores a might-have-been teacher romance, one reminisces on a one-night-stand between teachers. Most of them, though, also examine our failures and foibles as people. None of the characters are fully likable, but likewise, none are fully condemned by the reader. These are flawed, but lovable people. Perotta seems to have the knack for creating real, relatable characters.
I have to admit, I may even be using the first short story in my class of seniors for them to gain some perspective on the college craziness they’ve just spend 13 years of their life working toward.
I suggest you go grab a copy of Nine Inches if you need a good read–especially you teachers. It won’t disappoint.