Tom Perrotta Returns To Short Story Writing

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Tom Perrotta's latest book is "Nine Inches," a collection of 10 stories. He's pictured at the Here & Now studios in Boston. (Rachel Rohr/Here & Now)
Tom Perrotta's latest book is "Nine Inches," a collection of 10 stories. He's pictured at the Here & Now studios in Boston. (Rachel Rohr/Here & Now)

Tom Perrotta's first book was a collection of short stories, but he's probably best known for his critically acclaimed novels. "Election" and "Little Children" were adapted into Oscar-nominated films, and the television adaptation of his book "The Leftovers" has just been picked up as an HBO series.

But as Perrrotta tells Here & Now, he still has a love for the short story form, which was reawakened when he edited "The Best American Short Stories 2012." As a result, he's just published "Nine Inches" — his first short story collection in 19 years (excerpt below).

Fans of Perrotta's fiction might be surprised at the stories' tone, which is more somber, with less of his trademark humor.

"I'm getting older as a writer and different stories are interesting me," he told Here & Now. "I think some of my characters are at this point in their lives where they're making a kind of reckoning and sensing that it might be a final reckoning." He adds, "I don't really care if my characters are happy ... but I often feel like they're a little bit smarter."

Book Excerpt: 'Nine Inches'

By Tom Perrotta

"Nine Inches" book cover

Ethan didn’t want to go to the middle school dance, but the vice principal twisted his arm. He said it was like jury duty: the system only made sense if everybody stepped up and nobody got special treatment. Besides, he added, you might as well do it now, get it over with before the new baby comes and things get even crazier.

Ethan saw the logic in this, but it didn’t make him feel any less guilty about leaving the house on Friday evening with the dishes unwashed and Fiona just getting started on her nightly meltdown—apparently her busy toddler-day wasn’t complete unless she spent an hour or two shrieking her head off before bedtime. Donna smiled coldly at him from the couch, as if he’d volunteered to be a chaperone out of spite, just to make her life that much more difficult.

“Don’t worry about us,” she called out as he buttoned his coat. “We’ll be fine.”

She had to speak in a louder-than-normal voice to make herself heard over Fiona, who was standing in the middle of the living room in yellow Dr. Denton’s, her fists balled and her face smeared with a familiar glaze of snot, tears, and unquenchable fury.

“No, Daddy!” she bellowed. “You stay home!”

“I’m sorry,” Ethan said, not quite sure if he was apologizing to his wife or his child. “I tried to get out of it.”

Excerpted from the book NINE INCHES by Tom Perrotta. Copyright © 2013 by Tom Perrotta. Reprinted with permission of St. Martin's Press.


This segment aired on September 17, 2013.


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