Person of Interest: Tom Perrotta
Meet the local author who you and 30,000 other Bostonians will be reading this month.
TOM PEROTTA IS NO STRANGER to fame. The Belmont author has six acclaimed novels under his belt. His script for Little Children, his second book made into a movie, earned him an Oscar nomination. The New York Times dubbed him â€śan American Chekhov.â€ť But when the Boston Book Festival distributes 30,000 free copies of one of his stories this month, heâ€™s likely to reach a whole new level of recognition. â€śIâ€™ve never been on the Oprah book club,â€ť he says, â€śand thatâ€™s the only thing that could beat this.â€ť As you read this, copies of Perrottaâ€™s story â€śThe Smile on Happy Changâ€™s Faceâ€ť are being delivered to T stations and coffee shops around the city (the piece is also available at bostonbookfest.org). And if all goes according to plan, the story will spark a kind of citywide book group, elbowing its way into water-cooler conversations the way last weekendâ€™s Pats game did. â€śIn the utopian dream of mine, stories and novels will be as much a part of the common conversation as TV shows,â€ť says Perrotta. â€śI think [the story] will lead to different sorts of discussions than might arise from TV.â€ť Heâ€™ll find out for sure on October 16, when he takes questions at the festivalâ€™s open-to-all discussion.
â€śHappy Changâ€ť should definitely get peopleâ€™s attention. Set on a Little League diamond, it nonetheless hits on grown-up issues such as domestic abuse, homophobia, and the tendency of otherwise-mellow suburban parents to brawl at their kidsâ€™ games. As the father of two youth soccer players, Perrotta understands a little of that phenomenon. â€śItâ€™s easy to shake your head about the extreme cases,â€ť he says. â€śBut itâ€™s a whole other thing to discover that you yourself are all worked up about some eight-year-old kids running up and down the field.â€ť
Of course, as a dad, Perrotta knows that people donâ€™t always do their reading homework, but that wonâ€™t dampen his enthusiasm. â€śGenerally, short stories are limited to a self-consciously literary audience. Itâ€™s really exciting that this is much more communal and democratic,â€ť he says. â€śThe idea that it will be handed to people like a newspaper â€” what writer doesnâ€™t have that fantasy?â€ť
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2010/09/person-of-interest-tom-perrotta/