Perrotta, Tom 1961–
Perrotta, Tom 1961–
PERSONAL: Born August 13, 1961, in Summit, NJ; son of Joseph (a mail carrier) and Suzan (a secretary) Perrotta; married Mary Granfield (a journalist), September 14, 1991; children: Nina, Luke. Education: Yale University, B.A., 1983; Syracuse University, M.A., 1988.
ADDRESSES: Home—17 Harding Ave., Belmont, MA 02478. Agent—c/o Author Mail, St. Martin's Press, 175 5th Ave., New York, NY 10010.
Bad Haircut: Stories of the Seventies, Bridge Works Publishing, 1994.
The Wishbones, Putnam (New York, NY), 1997.
Election, Putnam (New York, NY), 1998.
Joe College, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Little Children, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2004.
(With Will Leitch) My Life as a Loser, Arriviste Press (Boston, MA), 2005.
(With Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone, and Rob Greenberg) Barry and Stan Gone Wild (screenplay), New Line Cinema, 2005.
(With Todd Field) Little Children (screenplay), New Line Cinema 2006.
ADAPTATIONS: Election was filmed by Paramount in 1999; film rights to Barry and Stan Gone Wild and Little Children have been sold; The Wishbones was recorded on audiocassette and is scheduled to be released on film in 2007.
SIDELIGHTS: In The Wishbones, Election, and Joe College, Tom Perrotta has written three humorous novels about young people growing up—or failing to grow up—in contemporary America. In The Wishbones, Dave Raymond is a thirty-one-year-old musician in a wedding band who still lives with his parents and dreams of success as a rock star. When the death of a musician friend forces him to confront his life honestly, Dave impulsively proposes to his girlfriend, a move he quickly regrets. A writer for Kirkus Reviews called the novel "a series of bittersweet misadventures recounted with irresistible tongue-in-cheek deadpan brio."
Perrotta's second novel, Election, takes place in a New Jersey high school where an election for student body president is the focus of everyone's attention. The two main candidates are football player Paul Warren and Tracy Flick, an ambitious beauty who had an affair with one of the school's teachers. When Paul's younger sister decides to enter the race too, a faculty advisor throws the election and loses his job. "This soap opera/comedy is funny, sad, realistic, irreverent, and very readable," remarked Joanna M. Burkhardt in the Library Journal. New York Times Book Review critic Peter LaSalle commented that Election delivers "exact and telling portraits of the kids" along with "solid plotting."
In Joe College Perrotta looks again at contemporary student life, this time delineating the story of Danny, a junior at Yale who drives his father's New Jersey lunch truck during school breaks. Danny has problems with women, including the pregnant girlfriend back home he wants to dump and the Yale girl he secretly desires. To complicate matters, he must ward off threats from his father's shady business rivals. According to a critic for Publishers Weekly, Joe College shows that Perrotta "is in full control of his quirky comic sensibility."
Little Children is a "penetrating and absorbing portrait of three suburban couples and their failed marriages," according to Library Journal reviewer Karen T. Bilton. This novel is concerned less with the little children of its title and more with their middle-class, near-middle-age parents, mothers who organize playground outings but whose own family lives are miserable, and stay-at-home dads whose maturity level might not rise much above that of their kids. Sarah, a stern bisexual feminist in college, is now married to Richard, a man twenty years older than she is who cannot seem to shake his infatuation with a pornographic Web site. Sarah has a Ph.D. but is troubled by her lackluster relationship, dismayed by her inability to control her child's tantrums, and mired in a dead-end job. Larry is a former police office who retired young after accidentally killing a teenage boy. Todd, admired by the mothers at the playground, is a handsome stay-at-home father who loves his son's music and feels unconcerned about passing his bar exam, which he has failed twice so far, even as his wife's frustration with the situation increases.
As the novel progresses, Sarah and Todd engage in an affair that neither expected, and though they recognize the desperation that drove them to it, the clandestine relationship offers them physical and emotional love that they cannot find elsewhere. When a convicted child molester moves into the neighborhood, the newcomer's presence creates anxiety for everyone and, for ex-cop Larry, an uncontrollable obsession. Perrotta "is the rare writer equally gifted at drawing people's emotional maps … and creating sidesplitting scenes" of comedy, observed Kyle Smith in People. He "expertly sketches the angst of the playground set," commented Joanne Wilkinson in Booklist. Smith concluded: "Suburban comedies don't come any sharper."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 1994, review of Bad Haircut: Stories of the Seventies, p. 1772; May 15, 1997, review of The Wishbones, p. 1563; February 1, 1998, Kevin Grandfield, review of Election, p. 900; January 1, 2004, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Little Children, p. 826.
Christian Science Monitor, July 1, 1994, review of Bad Haircut, p. 10.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1994, review of Bad Haircut, p. 331; March 15, 1997, review of The Wishbones, p. 411; January 15, 1998, review of Election, p. 75.
Kliatt, January, 1996, review of Bad Haircut, p. 19; January, 1999, review of Election, p. 14.
Library Journal, April 15, 1994, review of Bad Haircut, p. 116; April 15, 1997, review of The Wishbones, p. 120; March 1, 1998, Joanna M. Burkhardt, review of Election, p. 128; February 15, 2004, Karen T. Bilton, review of Little Children, p. 162.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 24, 1994, review of Bad Haircut, p. 6.
New York Times Book Review, August 7, 1994, review of Bad Haircut, p. 14; July 27, 1997, review of The Wishbones, p. 5; April 19, 1998, Peter LaSalle, review of Election, p. 22.
People, March 15, 2004, Kyle Smith, review of Little Children, p. 45.
Publishers Weekly, April 11, 1994, review of Bad Haircut, p. 53; March 31, 1997, review of The Wishbones, p. 61; January 12, 1998, review of Election, p. 44; July 17, 2000, review of Joe College, p. 174.