My History with Tom PerrottaFor years, I've claimed a difference between favorite authors and favorite books. I've loved Tom Perrotta since 1999. I was an undergraduate working at an independent bookstore in Atlanta, and one of my co-workers told me to read The Wishbones because it reminded her of her boyfriend. I read it; I loved it. I moved on to Election with some hesitation because I really didn't care for the film. I adored Election and am still livid at how the film turned out. I finished his then collection with Bad Haircut: Stories of the Seventies, a set of interconnected stories. I loved them too, even though my distaste of short stories was pretty strong in those days.
When news broke that Tom Perrotta had a new book coming out, the staff of our little indie was ecstatic. We eagerly opened each new shipment hoping for a copy. When they finally arrived only the day before publication day, we all promptly borrowed a copy and created a display. On publication day, I was busy shelving when I was called to the front of the store. Standing there was Joe Perrotta, Tom's brother, who was pretty excited to hear he'd wandered into a bookstore where his brother, then still very little known outside of Election, was a literary rock star. Joe immediately offered to send copies of Joe College to Tom for him to sign.
On picking a favoriteI read Joe College while I was in college, and it remains one of my favorite books. Still, I'm hard-pressed to claim a favorite Tom Perrotta book. The reason my favorite authors and favorite books list rarely overlap is because I can't separate Tom's books from one another emotionally. Sure, I can tell you the plots of all of them and extol their virtues, but when I love an author's work like I love Tom's, the emotional and the intellectual connections become so enmeshed I simply cannot assign value to parts of what I see as a whole. (In college, I became fascinated with communication theory on celebrity identity. Our perceptions of actors and actresses is typically a combination of both the characters they've played and the way the appear in interviews and the media.) I subscribe to this theory for literature too. In this age of connection, when I'm able to converse with so many authors I admire via email and Twitter, as I read their blogs and glean information about them through their book reviews, there are so many things that go into my perceptions of them and their work.
On the anticipation of reading The LeftoversI knew reading The Leftovers would cause me to reassess not only Tom, but all of his other novels too. It's part of the picture. It's also his first novel since I've been reading so publicly. I'll be reviewing The Leftovers here soon, but any review would be incomplete without this back story. I've spent a lot of time with Tom's books before this blog, and I hope he keeps writing and astounding me for years.
I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of The Leftovers a few months ago. I started it, and I was absolutely loving it, but I had to stop reading it. Faced with a paper copy, I was growing tired of furiously copying passages down to think of later and leaving notes to myself. I've professed my love for my Kindle before, but I've never been so dissatisfied reading a book in print before. Faced with a print copy of the newest book by my favorite author or waiting for today, its publication day, to read it, I opted to wait and buy it for my Kindle. I'll be reading as much as I can this week, but I'll also be reading it differently. I want to savor it. I don't need to rush through it to get to other things on my reading list. I'm giving it the time, contemplation and Kindle-highlighting and note-taking it deserves. Many of bookish friends may cry fowl, but I have never entertained the idea of liking the feel or smell of a book. I like the ideas in books. I like the way books transport me and make me think; these capabilities are outside of its physical form for me. I like the look of language. I'm still happy to read books in print sometimes, and I use my library frequently. I often receive advance copies of books in print and enjoy them regardless of format. Still, if I could afford to be only an e-reader, I would be. With The Leftovers, I decided it was worth waiting for an electronic copy so I can enjoy my favorite author in my favorite format.
As an affiliate, I receive a very, very small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!