Nine Inches by Tom Perrotta
St. Martin's • $25.99 • ISBN 9781250034700
published September 10, 2013


Best book jacket of the year? Maybe.

With his razor wit and uncanny ability to capture the lives of everyday Americans, it's almost unbelievable that Nine Inches is Tom Perrotta's first true collection of short stories (Bad Haircut was technically linked stories). The characters in these 10 stories—and all their many terrible decisions—link together in their own way: Everyone's doing everything wrong, but they're not bad people. Because of these characters' collective foibles, I'd recommend reading each story individually rather than all in one sitting, as the stories here stand stronger on their own than as part of a group.

Read on for an excerpt from "Backrub":

I didn't realize I had a problem until my next run-in with Lt. Finnegan. This time I wasn't speeding and hadn't violated any traffic laws. I was just minding my business, heading back to Sustainable around nine-thirty on a Wednesday night, when an unmarked Crown Victoria popped up in my rearview mirror, that familiar white-haired douchebag at the wheel. There were no flashing lights, but he tailgated me for a couple of blocks before finally hitting the siren, a quick bloop-bloop to get my attention.

We were right by Edmunds Elementary School, the quiet stretch of Warren Road that runs alongside the playing fields. I pulled over, his car still glued to my bumper, and cut the engine. It felt like a bad dream, the same cop stopping me for the third time in less than two weeks.

I was fishing around in the glove box for the registration when he startled me by tapping on the passenger window—he usually approached from the other side—and yanking the door open. Before I could react, he had ducked inside my car and shut the door behind him.

The Prius was pretty roomy, but Lt. Finnegan seemed to fill all the available space. He reached down, groping for the adjuster bar, then grunted with relief as the seat slid back.

"That's better." He rotated his bulk in my direction. He was wearing civilian clothes, khakis and a sport coat, but he still looked like a cop. "How are you, Donald?"

"Did I do something wrong?"

"I don't think so," he said. "Not that I know of."

"Then why did you pull me over?"

"I didn't pull you over."

"Yes, you did. You hit the siren."

"Oh, that." He chuckled at the misunderstanding. "I just wanted to say hi. Haven't seen you for a couple of days."

Do you like Tom Perrotta's novels? Think you'll check out his short fiction?

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