Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election by Tom Perrotta (Berkley Books 1998)

Mr. M

All I ever wanted to do was teach. I never had to struggle like other people with the question of what to do with my life. My only dream was to sit on the edge of my desk in front of a room full of curious kids and talk about the world.

The election that turned me into a car salesman took place in the spring of 1992. when Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill were still fresh in everyone's mind, and Gennifer Flowers was the momentary star of tabloids and talk shows. All year long my junior Current Events class returned again and again to a single theme, what the media liked to call "the Character Issue": How are private virtue and public responsibility intertwined? Can you be an adulterer and a good President? A sexual pervert and an effective, impartial member of the judiciary?

5 comments:

stuart said...

Hi Darren, Do you recommend this? I'm tempted to buy it. Cheers

Darren said...

Stuart,

hand on heart, if you're a fan of Alexander Payne's film, I can't really recommend the book. The film is so much better than the original source material.

I'm not necessarily blaming Perrotta as a writer. I love his work and really enjoyed the previous two novels of his that I read (especially 'Wishbones') but the mistake of coming to the book after the film is that Perrotta is much too nice and understanding to all of his characters.

There's a nagging fear, gleeful spite and misanthropy that envelopes the characters in the film that just takes it to a much different (and funnier) level.

On the plus side for the novel is that it's only 200 pages long and you could read it in one sitting on a long afternoon. Coupled with that; once you get past the realisation that the film is so radically reworked from the novel - despite the bones of the story essentially being the same - there is a curiousity value in comparing and contrasting one piece of work with another. It's fascinating to read on and speculate on how Payne took the novel and reworked it into a modern film classic.

Final point. Despite the fact that it's through the film that I originally heard of Perrotta, I'm so glad that this novel wasn't the first work of his that I picked up to read. That would have resulted in disappointment and a future reluctance on my part to check out any of his other novels.

That would have been my loss as he is a really funny and entertaining writer.

Check out Wishbones . . . and try and tell me that you don't love it.

stuart said...

Not heard or seen of the book or film until today. So I'll get both and get back to you! And Wishbones. Cheers

Darren said...

You've yet to see the film?

Erm, shit, disregard my previous comment.

stuart said...

Sorry, I'm rubbish. Head in the clouds, the real world often passes me by. Will definitely check it all out though. Sounds great.