- 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)
Bad Haircut: Stories of the Seventies Paperback – 30 Dec 2004
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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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Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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).
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...
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.