I'm tempted to call Tom Perrotta my favorite comic novelist, but I fear that description doesn't capture how rich and wonderful his books can be. They're laugh-out-loud funny, but they also display more depth and understanding of human nature than so-called serious books. Take The Abstinence Teacher, his 2007 novel, in which a liberal, high school human sexuality teacher finds herself deeply attracted to a married, ultra-conservative Christian--her daughter's soccer coach--who is equally smitten. Perrotta could play it strictly for laughs, and although he does have some fun at the expense of the Christian right and liberals, you feel that he likes these characters and sees beyond their hypocrisies, allowing readers to come to a deeper understanding of people, including those whose values may clash with their own.
His upcoming novel also offers food for thought as well as laughs. His inspired title, The Leftovers, refers not to day-old pot roast but to residents of a suburban community who experience something that may or may not be the Rapture: millions of people all over the world mysteriously disappear. Those left behind--"the leftovers"--must go on with their lives, stumbling in multiple directions. Some join a cult called the Guilty Remnant, taking vows of silence. Others join something called "The Healing Hug" movement. As in The Abstinence Teacher and other Perrotta novels, the author isn't concerned with passing judgment but with illuminating the foibles--alternately heartbreaking and humorous--of people in situations they never imagined.
Although The Leftovers isn't due out until late August/early September, you can placed it on hold now by clicking here. One of the cool things about the online catalog is that you can place holds on items in the catalog—on everything from books to DVDs—once they appear in the catalog as on order. You’ll then be contacted to pick them up when they come in. Sometimes you can even place holds on items on order at other libraries in our system—libraries we’re online with and with whom we share materials.
For me, Perrotta is an author whose books I'll read no matter what direction his imagination takes him. I've read all his books except his first, Bad Haircut: Stories of the Seventies, an oversight that I must correct! Other Perrotta books I haven't yet mentioned are The Wishbones, about a wedding band, and Little Children and Election, both of which were made into excellent movies. They're all worth checking out.
Who are your favorite comic novelists? Are there authors you'll read anything and everything by, no matter what the subject matter?