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Read Bad Haircut: Stories Of The Seventies (1997)

Bad Haircut: Stories of the Seventies (1997)

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3.7 of 5 Votes: 4
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042515954X (ISBN13: 9780425159545)
berkley trade

Bad Haircut: Stories Of The Seventies (1997) - Plot & Excerpts

I picked this up a couple of years ago while browsing at NYC's Strand Book Store. I recognized the author’s name but had never heard of the book before and it looked intriguing. (Plus it was deeply discounted.) I wasn't disappointed.This is Perrotta’s first book – he’d go on to write acclaimed novels like Election, Little Children (both made into films) and The Leftovers (recently made into an HBO TV series). But already the casual, knowing fictional voice is well-developed. The writing is clear, unfussy and observant without being self-conscious or precious; the situations recognizable to anyone who grew up in the suburbs.The 10 stories are all linked by protagonist Buddy, a perfectly ordinary suburban New Jersey kid who graduates from boy scouts, bicycles, basketball and football to learning about alcohol, sex, drugs, betrayal and then death. In short: it’s a coming of age book, a series of random, but telling snapshots. Adultery, divorce, racism, class and the legacy of the Vietnam war linger around the edges of a few of these tales, and a couple feature acts of violence or vandalism. But there’s nothing melodramatic here. Perrotta gets all the details of this unremarkable, middle-American world right and, although we feel the protagonist is on the cusp of leaving this place behind, there’s no judgement of any of the other characters.Their flaws and foibles are all too human.

While Little Children is still my favorite Perrotta novel, this debut has its charms. The narrative is in the form of inter-locking short stories which I believe are all from the point of view of the same character (Buddy), presumably a version of the author himself. Progressing chronologically from elementary school shenanigans through the first couple of summers back home during college breaks, the era details are sharp, and the characters are swiftly-drawn and just as funny as they are heartbreaking. In particular, a story where a nine year-old Buddy tags along with his mom as she encounters an old boyfriend working as an anthropomorphic hot dog was oddly touching. Also, the final story, where Buddy serves as a pallbearer at a neighbor's funeral, was creepy yet poised. In fact, "poised" is a good word to describe the entire collection. The stories are deceptively slight, kind of like Ray Carver lite -- which isn't a bad thing at all.

What do You think about Bad Haircut: Stories Of The Seventies (1997)?

So glad I'm finally done. For some reason, my Intro to Fiction thinks this is the pinnacle of perfect writing. I do not. The stories were fine, but their rendering was sometimes painful. Perrotta writes like he is getting paid for every cliché and trope he uses. His attempts at creative writing are nearly zero. I don't care how funny/heartfelt these "stories from the seventies" are, they were so poorly written that I regret spending time reading this book. Intro to Fiction should be about explaining the concepts of fiction, then allowing students to experiment in an environment where they will have opportunities to get feedback on what works and what doesn't. Using Tom Perrotta as an example of how to write well may have turned half of my class off to writing and encouraged the other half to keep going when they should have stopped. Oh boy..

"Bad Haircut" is an excellent collection of stories, ten in total, by Tom Perrotta. Each story is around twenty pages and each takes place in the seventies, during the childhood and teenage years of one protagonist, "Buddy". The stories are written in an autobiographical manner, in the same easy, dialogue-heavy prose in which Perrotta writes his novels. While this collection doesn't quite match the emotion and humor of his novels, it is very entertaining and fast reading. Some of the stories are humorous, some are more serious, and all contain elements of comedy and drama.
—Mark R.

Presenting these vignettes as a collection of stories seems like a lazy way to avoid structuring them into a full-length novel. They're too similar - most, of not all, involve the same protagonist - to be considered a collection of short stories; but the also lack a strong narrative flow to be considered a novel. For all the time the reader spends in the mind of "Buddy", there's never an emotional connection to the character's nostalgia.That said, Perotta has a talent for painting visceral portraits of suburban disillusionment; and you can see his talent being honed in this collection.

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