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Bad Haircut: Stories of the Seventies Paperback – 30 Dec 2004

5 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Paperback, 30 Dec 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Publishing Corporation,U.S.; Berkley Trade Pbk. Ed edition (30 Dec. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 042515954X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425159545
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 1.5 x 20.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,134,787 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Tom Perotta is a graduate of Yale and teaches writing at Harvard. In addition to Election, he is the author of The Wishbones and Bad Haircut: Stories of the Seventies. He lives in Massachusetts.

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My mother was a den mother, but she wasn't fanatical about it. Read the first page
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
If you grew up in the 70's (and graduated high school at the end of the decade), this book is for you. It truly captures the essence of growing up in the post war era and deals perfectly with the mundane realities of the teenage experiance. If you are from North Jersey, the stories are even more meaningful. Read it and read it again.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9c049fcc) out of 5 stars 56 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c0543b4) out of 5 stars Realistic capturing of adolescence 14 Oct. 2000
By The Gooch - Published on
Format: Paperback
The stories in Tom Perrotta's "Bad Haircut" are deceptively simple. The subject matter of these stories is not exactly what you would consider earth-shatteringly original. Yet what makes these stories work so incredibly well are exactly those facts. I was extremely impressed at how well Perrotta was able to remember the mindset of the teenage years. He hits on so many real truths about teenagers: they way teens tend to overdramatize small events, the way otherwise nice teenagers can behave poorly due to peer pressure, the disappointment of early sexual experiences, the way early childhood dreams tend to creep into a more mundane reality, loneliness, and the realization that adults are not flawless. There were so many times in reading this book where I would be simply amazed at how right-on Perrotta was in describing an experience I went through, or a feeling I had back not all that long ago when I was a teenager myself. Because when people get older there is a tendency to laugh at the stupid things they did or thought when they were younger, sometimes in writing about teens, writers forget one of the key elements of adolescence, which is the fact that the things you laugh at taking seriously when you get older, were things that seemed legitimately important when you were younger. Because of this, oftentimes in books, TV shows, or movies about teens there is a tendency to get too overly nostalgic about the teen years and forget how during that time of your life, sometimes just getting through another day seems like a struggle. Or alternatively, it seems too many writers think that the day-to-day drama that teens create in the course of their daily lives isn't "dramatic" enough to be interesting, so instead the teenagers in many books, TV shows, or movies go through a series of contrived dramas where they act like grown-ups in kids bodies. Perrotta is able to avoid both of these pratfalls by portraying the teens years for pretty much what they are - a process of slowly growing up, experiencing new things, and coming to view the world in more realistic terms than one may have in childhood.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c31e45c) out of 5 stars Bad Haircut, Stange Decade, GREAT book 26 Dec. 2001
By Shawn S. Sullivan - Published on
Format: Paperback
Tom Perotta has the gift of a great writer. Honesty and the ability to convey not his wishes of the world he/we grew up in but rather the stark reality of it all. We can laugh at it, we can cry about it, but "it" is all there. Comparisons are likely to both haunt and glorify Mr. Perotta - ie Roth, Salinger, Fitzgerald and even Springsteen but he writes in his own straight foward manner. He literally drives home a point in its wonderful and innocent simplicity and allows the reader to take it where he/she will. Tom Perotta is a wonderful writer and story teller we are lucky to have. READ his work. You will be happy you did.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9cdd80fc) out of 5 stars "I didn't realize it at the time, but that's when I was really happy." 3 April 2008
By Gregory Baird - Published on
Format: Paperback
For a Perrotta devotee such as myself, Bad Haircut comes as something of a surprise. It lacks Perrotta's signature style, the acerbic wit and satirical tone that have defined his spectacular novels Election, Little Children: A Novel, and The Abstinence Teacher. It's also a difficult book to classify - too linear and structured overall to adequately call a short story collection, but too broken up into pieces to call a novel. I suppose with this, his first published work, Perrotta was still finding his footing as an author, but it is a tribute to his talent that even while exploring the range of his voice the finished product still works, and very well at that.

As I said, "Bad Haircut" isn't exactly a short story collection but isn't quite a novel. Think of it as slices from the life of a boy named Buddy, who came of age in the turbulent, disco-studded seventies. Each story is a chapter in the stages of his junior high and high school years, with book-ends from 1969 and 1980 to put a frame on the decade. We first meet Buddy as a young Boy Scout innocently star-struck when he meets the Wonderful Wiener Man, who tours the country in a hot dog costume and turns out to have a past connection to Buddy's mother (a first glimpse at the complex blend of humor and drama that imbues Perrotta's current fiction). Over the course of "Bad Haircut" Buddy loses that innocence as he makes all of the mistakes and realizations that typify the American adolescence as a segue into adulthood. In the final installment Buddy attends a funeral after finishing his first year of college, a funeral that will unexpectedly cause him to revisit the innocence of that Boy Scout we first met him as.

It would be remiss of me to say that "Bad Haircut" is more serious than Perrotta's other works, since they all pack weighty themes beneath their farcical exteriors, but it does feel that way thanks to a poetic quality that he seems to have forsaken in those later novels. At first glance "Bad Haircut" seems superficial, but Perrotta's already remarkably deft pen only makes it appear that way. Each story packs a mean punch, and the fact that they flow so easily belies the poetic - and painstaking - structure that they follow. They speak volumes about American life, not just in the seventies, but beyond. Barring the absence of cell phones and the internet, "Bad Haircut" could just as easily take place in today's world.

If I have a complaint it's that even though the stories all follow the same character, each one feels a little too distinct. Buddy seems to have a different set of friends in each story, even though they seem to take place no more than a year apart (in a few instances only a few weeks have passed). And while we get to know the people who populate Buddy's world fairly well, Buddy himself remains something of a mystery. It would almost be possible to believe that each story is about a different teenager who just happens to reside in the same geographic location as the one in the previous story. But that's really a minor complaint, and doesn't impact the quality of the stories very much in the end.

The stories in "Bad Haircut" remind me of another spectacular short story writer, Tobias Wolff - and that is a comparison I never thought I would make. I love, love, love the Perrotta with the wicked sense of humor that I have gotten to know so well, but I would actually love to see him revisit his roots and do something like this again. Maybe someday he will.

Grade: A-

PS In addition to the linked Perrotta novels above, I would also recommend checking out the aforementioned Tobias Wolff's phenomenal Back in the World: Stories. And the film adaptation of Little Children is top notch (as well it should be -- Perrotta co-wrote the screenplay).
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c31eb04) out of 5 stars Are You a Child of the 70s...? 7 April 2007
By Ken C. - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Yes, you'll enjoy BAD HAIRCUT in a big way if you grew up in that strange decade we call the 70s, but you can enjoy it for many other reasons as well. If you enjoy short stories, this collection with a common protagonist, the autobiographical Buddy, is sure to whet your appetite for that most concise of genres. If you are a Tom Perrotta fan, you'll be pleased and surprised, as this book offers both the Perrotta hero you've become accustomed to in his novels (young-ish, male, funny) AND it offers the author at his most disciplined as a stylist. The stories contain little "fat," in other words, and thematically tackle all the major sources of boyhood angst from grade school days to college.

The collection starts with "Weiner Man," the tale of Buddy in the cub scouts, a man dressed in an oversized weiner outfit, and his mother who knew Weiner Man from high school. Sweet and strange, it's the perfect gateway into this frank collection. It is followed by stories involving dating, fighting, family, school, drugs, and alcohol. Just your typical, red-blooded New Jersey suburban upbringing, is all. But what a ride.

I feel this book is overlooked for two reasons -- it's an "early" work by an author who later became famous and it's a short story collection, which will always play second fiddle to the novel. Don't let it scare you away, however. Although anyone can enjoy this work, it's almost a sure bet if you're a male boomer out of the 'burbs. So go ahead. Get a haircut. Even if it's bad, they always grow out...
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c31eaa4) out of 5 stars Splitting Hairs 27 Aug. 2010
By RCM - Published on
Format: Paperback
Tom Perrotta made his debut as an author with "Bad Haircut: Stories of the Seventies". It was a debut that would introduce Perrotta's tried-but-true model for his future main characters, the man-child, but also one that presaged Perrotta's place as a writer of funny yet thoughtful, evocative prose. A bit uneven at times, "Bad Haircut" is an entirely readable book, filled with nostalgia and familiar scenes that could have come out of anyone's childhood and teenage years.

All ten of the stories in "Bad Haricut" focus around the character of Buddy, as he grows from a nine-year-old Boy Scout into a disenchanted college student. Readers follow Buddy as he comes to terms with serious topics like death and love, and also while he deals with the unfair moments of being an adolescent. Some of the standout stories are "Thirteen", in which a friend of Buddy's asks him to write love letters to his girlfriend and unwittingly gets both of them into trouble, and "You Start to Live" in which Buddy learns how to drive a car but also learns a thing or two about girls and broken hearts. All of the stories are unflinchingly honest and readers get to know every thought in Buddy's head, both the goofy and the profound.

It is easy to see why reviewers likenend Perrotta to Raymond Carver, for many of the stories seem to end with no resolution, which can leave the reader yearning for more. Yet Perrotta does not demonstrate the same clipped and effortless ability to say the least when it matters most. "Bad Haircut" manages to perfectly capture its time period, the seventies, while also managing to transcend that decade and resonate with the generations that have come after it. That is no easy feat for an author to achieve, but Perrotta did it with a little bit of humor and simple, honest storytelling.
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