by Tom Perrotta
Life in the 'Burbs
A review by William Bowers
Tom Perrotta, author of the novel Election
(yup, the one that became the Alexander Payne movie), is a shrewd observer of
toddler politics. But the kids in his new book, Little Children, are less
inspiration for the novel's title than a burden for the adults in the book to
schlepp around. Or worse: One of the main characters in this novel bearing so
seemingly innocuous a name is, well, a sex offender.
But Little Children is much more than just a tale of felony exhibitionism. It's the story of a mottled group of suburban parents in various states of dissatisfaction with their variously suburban lives. To wit: Todd and Sarah are house spouses eager for an extramarital affair with each other. Mary Ann schedules her sex life with pre-TiVo rigidity. Larry, the discharged cop, is hell-bent on harassing Ronnie, the sex offender.
Through all of this, Perrotta wisely refuses to condescend to the world he
satirizes, and his masterful perspective-hopping provides the reader with a
breezy omniscience over the characters' failures in life. The book is disarmingly
funny but rueful; Perrotta handles his fictive offspring in just the same way
Todd gazes at his deceived wife -- not mockingly, but with "something sweeter
and more complicated." And above all else, the book's screenplay speed makes
it infinitely readable. Little Children is a brave novel about the ugly
by-products of lives spent seeking a vanilla balance of leisure and structure.
In the absence of a great social novel with something new to say about the horror,
the horror, we could do worse than settle for Perrotta's engrossing, compassionate
to Esquire and Save 75%
Get 12 fantastic issues of Esquire magazine
for only $8. The best culture, entertainment, style, financial advice, women
and more delivered right to your door every month ? at an incredible 81% savings
off the newsstand price! What could be better... or easier?
here to subscribe now!