Friday, January 07, 2005

Lost in Suburbia

I finished Tom Perrotta's Little Children last night. It's billed as dark humor on the cover blurb, and while there are funny moments it's definitely not a ha-ha-funny kind of book. Mostly it's a kind of a suburban dystopia book, showing all sorts of things going wrong in this middle class life we all supposedly aspire to.

Although there are several points of view and any number of little side-stories, the main focus rests on Sarah, a lapsed feminist turned into a stay-at-home mom, and Todd (aka the Prom King), former college athelete and good looking guy turned into a stay at home dad. Both are listless, confused thirty-somethings unhappy with their station in life, but not sure which direction to follow. Todd's wife pushes him to take the bar to become a lawyer, while Sarah searches for the fellowship and intellectual challenges she once found in college. The two meet in a neighborhood park, with their kids in tow, and begin a wild affair that excites and enlivens both of them. It holds a lot of similarities to A.M. Homes or Tim O'Brien for me in that most of the humor lies in slightly exaggerated characterizations and situations. Sarah's husband, for example, is so deeply obsessed with an internet porn star dubbed "Slutty Kay" that he attends a convention held in her honor.

Perrotta has a real gift for characterization. Be it the confused and love-torn thoughts of Todd and Sarah, or the recently released child molester Ronnie living in their neigborhood, the author does an excellent job of bringing out the thoughts and desires of these characters onto the page. Even the children are well written, something not so easy to accomplish. It's also a quick read with a lot of emotional twist and turns, so it's easy to see why it's in development as a movie.

Next on my reading stack is issue 43 of Conjunctions. They usually have themes each issue, and the theme this time focuses on poetry. They asked big-name poets like John Ashberry to write a short essay on a young poet they like and include some work by the young poet. The 2nd half of the volume is fiction and seems unthemed. Looking forward to it, though, because it has fun people in it like Kelly Link, Ben Marcus and Gilbert Sorrentino (who really seems to be in about every lit mag I get now).



LadyLitBlitzin said...

Wow, that sounds like a great book. I'm a big fan of suburban dystopia, ha. Also, I'm looking forward to hearing about Conjunctions, especially the story by Kelly Link.

Hebdomeros said...

The poetry's kicking my little behind right now. I'm basically counting the pages until Kelly Link (she has the first piece of fiction). The poetry is good, but I can't sit and read poetry for long stretches at a time like I can fiction. After a couple pages my mind just starts to shut down. I wish it wouldn't, because I usually enjoy those first couple of pages. Maybe someday I'll take a poetry appreciation class.