A policeman pulls boys over to secretly give them backrubs. A grade school teacher googles herself and finds a new entry on gradeyourteacher.com, one that is anything but favorable and causes her to question her life. A middle-aged married man breaks into his dead neighbor’s garage to use his air compressor to blow up a kiddie pool, but finds something disturbing.
Tom Perrotta’s new book of stories, Nine Inches, measures not only the permissible distance between middle school kids in a slow dance, but that less definable space between responsibility and desire, who we think we are and who we dream of being—if we dared. Grounded in the disillusionment of suburbia, each of these tales rides on life’s ironies straight to the heart of our very human need for connection and meaning. After reading it, you’ll look at your neighbors, people in line at the grocery store, the pizza delivery guy, even your own parents, and wonder what their inner lives are really like.
I love books of short stories because you can read an entire story in a single sitting. And Tom Perrota’s stories are among the best I’ve read. Ever. (Apologies to Carver fans.)