• Birth—August 13, 1961
• Where—Summit, New Jersey, USA
• Education—B.A., Yale University; M.A., Syracuse University
• Awards—Fellowship, Bread Loaf Writer's Conference
• Currently—Belmont, Massachusetts
Tom Perrotta is the author of several works of fiction, including Joe College, Election, Little Children and The Leftovers. Both Election and Little Children were adapted to film: Election, in 1999, starred Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick; Little Children, in 2006, starred Kate Winslet and Jennifer Connelly.
Perrotta has taught expository writing at Yale and Harvard University and has been called "one of our true genius satirists" by Mystic River author, Dennis LeHane. Newsweek hailed him as "one of America's best-kept literary secrets...like an American Nick Hornby." Perrotta lives with this wife and two children in Belmont, Massachusetts. (Adapted from the publisher.)
That Tom Perrotta struggled into his early 30s to find success should come as no surprise to fans of his work. A Yale grad, Perrotta studied writing under Thomas Berger and Tobias Wolff before moving on to teach creative writing at Yale and Harvard. It was during this period that he began work on the stories that would comprise his first release, Bad Haircut. He had finished two more novels (including Election, which would prove to be his breakthrough book) before Bad Haircut was finally picked up by a publisher in 1994.
It wasn't until a chance introduction with a screenwriter that Perrotta finally moved into the public eye. The result of that encounter was the publication of Election (1998), which was made into the much-beloved film starring Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon. At last, Perrotta was able to call himself a working novelist.
The theme of ordinary people trapped in lives they never imagined runs throughout Perrotta's novels. Success for his characters is always just out of reach, and the world is always just outside of their control. Characters that seem destined for success serve as foils to the true protagonists, constant reminders of the unfairness of life.
Which is not to say that Perrotta's novels are depressing. On the contrary, his razor-sharp observations of the human condition are often side-splittingly funny, and the compassion he exhibits in his writing makes even the most ostensibly unlikable characters sympathetic. Perotta does not create caricatures; his novels work because he has a basic understanding that life is complex, and everyone has a story if you take the time to listen.
When asked in a 2004 Barnes & Noble interview what book most influenced his career as a writer, here's his response:
I read The Great Gatsby in high school and was hypnotized by the beauty of the sentences and moved by the story about the irrevocability of lost love. I've reread it several times since then and have discovered lots of other layers—Nick's idolization of Gatsby, the perverse Horatio Alger narrative of Gatsby's rise in the world, Fitzgerald's keen eye for the hard realities of social class in America—and I still maintain that even if there's no such thing as a perfect novel, Gatsby's about as close as we're going to get.
(Author bio and interview from Barnes & Noble.)
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