Monday, September 19, 2005

Little Children

Little Children by Tom Perrotta, on 10 cds, performed by George Wilson

I really didn't love this book, or George Wilson. He's dry and all the narration is bland and unemotional. It's more like he's ticking items off a list than performing a novel for a reader/listener's pleasure. And, even worse, some of his women's voices sound more like the the voice from the old Smucker's commercials. I may have enjoyed this book, just in my own voice in my own head, but I guess I'm not going to be finding that out now.

Little Children was very timely. I've read a few books like this now. The author incorporates big news stories going on, or in recent memory, into the story. There was much discussion of things that happened around the time this book was written. Specifically, Perrotta brings up the Chandra Levy/Gary Conditt situation. I remember that story well. I distinctly remember hoping that Conditt was guilty. I know that sounds awful, but this guy was vilified. True, he was no angel. He was a philanderer, which if he hadn't been a congressman, would have been a private family matter. It should not have been national news. Unless, that truly is the way we're headed, in which case all cheaters should be showcased on the news and in print. The newspaper would be like the phone book in large cities, if that were to happen. Did that sound like I mean that poor girl's fate shouldn't have been national news? In that case, it should never have happened at all. She was a girl out for a run and she became a murder victim, and most likely a rape statistic, considering that was the m.o. of the guy responsible. Conditt's life was destroyed. His career and family were compromised. He will spend the rest of his days with the taint of murder suspect and he had nothing to do with it. If he was guilty of murdering Chandra Levy, then his life was going to be over anyway, but that's not the case and other than jail time, the result was the same.

Little Children revolves around a variety of people in a small community. There is Todd, a stay at home dad to three year-old Aaron and husband to Kathy, a documentary filmmakker for PBS. Todd is studying for his third try at the bar exam. His relationships to his wife and son can be a bit strained and he's feeling sort of trapped in his life. He's a man in a woman's world, the world of play dates and community parks. Being the only man in most of these situations, he's often fodder for the imaginations of the local moms. In fact, at one park, although he is never addressed directly, he is referred to as the prom king and supposition about his runs rampant.

Sarah was working as a Starbucks barista when she agreed to go out with middle aged, divorced Richard. They have now have a three year-old daughter, Lucy. Sarah is having difficulty fitting in with the playground moms. She was a free spirit before Richard with a sad romantic history. There is a pecking order and a judgmental quality to life with the playground moms and Sarah is not interested in playing their games. Her home life is no less complicated and frustrating. Recently, Richard has developed an appreciation of internet porn. His new friend, Slutty Kay has even sold him a pair of her panties along with some Polaroids of her wearing them and a detailed account of what she did while wearing them. (One word, ewww)

Todd meets Larry, who recruits him for a no pad/helmet tackle football league for a team made up of cops, called The Enforcers. Todd played football in high school and college and the team needs a new quarterback, after they pretty much maimed the last one. Larry was a cop, but left the force after he shot and killed a 13 year-old boy at the mall. In his defense, he was called to the scene because of reports of this young man in the mall with a gun. Larry seems a bit high strung. The story ended with a dead 13 year old boy with a toy gun. Now, Larry spends his time making life miserable for the "pervert" who moved into the community.

Ronald McGorvey, the pervert aforesaid, is an ex-convict. He's moved in with his mother after being released from prison. McGorvey was convicted of exposing himself to a Girl Scout who came to his door selling cookies. (This is probably why they set up tables in shopping centers in my area.) Considering that a lot of the action takes place on the playground, you can imagine how McGorvey goes over with the other characters.

I found most of the characters so unlikable that I almost sympathized with the pedophile. I thought the people were so horrible that it was going to wind up that he made a mistake and maybe wasn't such an awful guy. Now, if you recall my commentary on Lolita, you know how creeped out I was/am by the subject matter. I kept wanting to defend this guy and his mother. Soon, it was obvious that McGorvey was a total creep too, so I was left feeling just for Mrs. McGorvey.

Larry spends the majority of his free time harassing Mrs. McGorvey. I'm sure that Ronald was the intended victim, but it was Mrs. McGorvey's house that he was vandalizing and she was the one who had a screaming madman at her door at all hours of the night.

I guess, all in all, I was not too impressed with this book. I wasn't crazy about the characters. I didn't feel like the story went anywhere either. It was whine, bitch, whine, bitch, faux climax, the end.

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