- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First edition (September 10, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1250034701
- ISBN-13: 978-1250034700
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 111 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #267,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Nine Inches: Stories Hardcover – September 10, 2013
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The main selling point of any short story collection is, arguably, this: if you don’t like one story, you can simply skip ahead to the next one. Most best-selling authors with name-brand recognition have published at least one volume of short stories. A well-regarded humorist like David Sedaris is blessed with a trademark wit that can turn almost any subject matter into absurdist gold. But the art of crafting short stories effectively is not necessarily a skill inherent to even the most talented novelists. Perrotta is a successful author, with memorable hits like Election (1998) and Little Children (2004), both of which were turned into acclaimed Hollywood films. Its eyebrow-raising title aside, Nine Inches (a reference to the minimum distance that chaperones must maintain between the hormonal kids at a middle-school dance) isn’t going to ignite anyone outside of Perrotta’s loyal fan base. These stories of unhappy suburbanites are serviceable but lacking a killer emotional hook, with the exception of “One-Four-Five,” a true standout about a sad-sack pediatrician who becomes obsessed with blues music while going through a midlife divorce. --Chris Keech
“The acclaimed novelist displays perfect tonal pitch in this story collection, as nobody explores the darker sides of suburbia with a lighter touch.” ―Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“Told with wit and grace, Perrotta's story collection lays bare the shifting relationships we all suffer and seldom comprehend, presenting characters who are ambushed by the hidden intentions of people they thought they knew.” ―Publishers Weekly
“In this strong collection of short stories, Perrotta once again peeks behind the living-room curtains of manicured suburbia and imagines characters whose lives are less than tidy.” ―People
“[A] wickedly funny collection of suburbia-skewering stories.” ―Harper's Bazaar
“Perrotta's stuff is dark, but it goes down so easy, especially when bite-size.” ―New York magazine
“The novelist who so perfectly captured the insanity of suburbia in The Leftovers and Little Children returns to the form that made him famous in this darkly comic collection of stories.” ―Entertainment Weekly
“The stories hang together so beautifully, the writing is so stylistically consistent, and the themes are so closely related, the book comes across like a novel, or a collection of interlocking stories. It's as if we're wandering through a single community in a particular town, as in James Joyce's "Dubliners" or in so many of Ann Beattie's and Raymond Carver's collections. We're in PerrottaWorld, where the stories and characters and their concerns all seem to rhyme with one another.” ―Boston Globe
“Perrotta fixates on small-town types whose complex quirks make them not extraordinary or noble but average; what is extraordinary is Perrotta's empathic insight into how his characters cope--or, short of that, forget.” ―Elle
“The descendant of such chroniclers of small-town America as Thornton Wilder, John O'Hara, and Willa Cather...Perrotta's language never announces itself; it recedes into the background, allowing the characters, with their convincing and contemporary dialogue, to drive the narrative in a way that sounds organic and true.” ―New York Times
“Tom Perrotta has proven time and again that he has a tremendous gift for telling darkly comedic tales of suburban ennui, as seen through the eyes of a seemingly endless stable of hilariously sad (and sadly hilarious) protagonists. Perrotta's latest book, an ingratiating collection of sublimely paced short stories, filled with masterful character sketches and comically vexatious scenarios, extends his streak.” ―Time Out
“The ray of light in Perrotta's new stories comes from his characters' belated recognition of their foibles and failures, and their earnest and quintessentially American yearning to do better.” ―National Public Radio
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I've been a big fan of Tom Perrotta's for some time now. While I love his use of language and his ear for dialogue, I particularly like the way he is able to make his books so compelling when they're not necessarily about a major catastrophe or turning point. Instead, they so accurately capture the everyday moments of everyday lives, and the moment when a character's decision takes them off the rails a bit.
All of the stories in Perrotta's new collection, Nine Inches, do a terrific job of capturing those moments. The narrators of these stories are all dealing with something--divorce, the dissolution of relationships, injury, dissatisfaction with their life at the current time. These stories feature familiar characters in situations you can understand or perhaps even identify with, which is what makes them compelling and enjoyable.
In The Smile on Happy Chang's Face, a man battling unhappiness and petty inferiority brings his issues along with him when umpiring a Little League championship game. Senior Season tells the story of an injured high school football player unable to cope with his life now that he is no longer playing, and his elderly neighbor provides the cause of some frustration. The narrator of Backrub is stuck in a dead-end job while all of his friends went off to college, and has some interesting encounters with a local policeman. In Kiddie Pool, an elderly man makes some interesting late-night discoveries about his estranged best friend and next-door neighbor. And in the title story (named for the distance that slow-dancing middle school students needed to keep between them), a teacher wonders how his life might have been different if he pursued his true feelings.
I really enjoyed nearly all of the 10 stories in this collection (of course, some more than others), and felt like probably all of them could be expanded into full-length novels. With many of the stories, I wanted to know what happened next with the characters after the stories ended. That, to me, is always the mark of truly well-written and interesting stories.
If you're a fan of Tom Perrotta's, definitely pick up this collection, as you'll enjoy the familiarity and complexity of his storytelling. And if you've never read any of Perrotta's novels, but are simply a fan of short stories or good writing, pick up this collection, too, because you'll definitely find a lot of the latter.