Nine Inches: Stories
Tom Perrotta
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Buy *Nine Inches: Stories* by Tom Perrotta online

Nine Inches: Stories
Tom Perrotta
St. Martin's Press
256 pages
September 2013
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Perrotta's first book was a collection of short stories called Bad Haircut. Though it was published by a fairly small house, the compilation brought a lot of attention to his unique talents. He returns to the short story in this new book where he takes deeply emotional and sometimes hilarious looks at the love lives of teachers ("Nine Inches"), the breakdown of a father while attending a Little League game ("The Smile on Happy Chang's Face") and the ins and outs of SAT testing ("The Test Taker").

Many of these stories highlight a sense of yearning in the main players even though some of them cannot even name what it is they're looking for. Here, in the short tale bearing the book's title, Ethan--a man trapped in a loveless marriage and not sure how to escape--reminisces about the evening's earlier events in this closing paragraph.

Now that he was here, though, he couldn't seem to get out of the car. Maybe in a minute or two he'd unbuckle his seatbelt and head inside, into the house where his wife and child were sleeping. In the meantime he was happy enough to stay right here and think about kissing Charlotte outside the men's room and the dreamy look on Amanda's face when he showed her the measuring tape and explained that she and Ben were dancing too close, the way she just smiled and closed her eyes and let her head fall back onto her partner's chest, as if the two of them were the only people who mattered in the world, as if they had no one to answer to but themselves.
It's a beautiful paragraph. Taken out of context it may sound a bit confusing, but it's an idea example of Perrotta's writing style--simple, straightforward and without guile. More than half of the paragraph is taken up with the second sentence. Though it's quite long, it conveys that sense of longing, of searching for something.

Perrotta is a tremendous writer and while some of the stories here shine much brighter than others, even the low-wattage tales shed beautiful light.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Steven Rosen, 2014

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