Election: A Novel by Tom Perrotta
GP Putnam’s Sons, 1st edition, 1998
Genre: Satire, literary fiction
A suburban New Jersey high school teacher confronts a student body election gone haywire, in this darkly comic novel by the author of The Wishbones.
Who really cares who gets elected president of Winwood High School? Nobody–except Tracy Flick. Tracy’s one of those students of boundless energy and ambition who somehow find the time to do everything–edit the school paper and yearbook, star in the musical, sleep with her favorite teacher. Tracy’s heart is set on becoming president of Winwood, and whatever Tracy wants, Tracy gets. What’s more, her classmates seem to agree. With weeks to go before election day, her victory is nearly a foregone conclusion.
And that’s just the problem, according to Mr M aka Jim McAllister, faculty adviser tot he Student Government Association and a popular Winwood history teacher. In the name of democracy–not to mention a simmering grudge against Tracy Flick–Mr M recruits the perfect opposition candidate. Paul Warren is a golden boy, a football hero with a brain and a heart, eager to bulk up his meager resume. But the clear-cut two-way race is muddled when Paul’s younger sister unexpectedly enters the competition. Running on a platform of apathy, Tammy Warren is an anonymous sophomore, struggling with her sexuality and mourning the defection of her best friend Lisa, who has abandoned their friendship to become Paul’s campaign manager and girlfriend.
As Winwood High experiences election fever, Mr M is distracted by a sudden attraction to his wife’s best friend. The two dramas he has created–one personal and private, the other public and political–unfurl simultaneously, with all the players haring a life-altering conclusion.
Part satire, part soap opera, Election is an uncommon look at an ordinary American high school and the extraordinary people who inhabit it.
Book Report:I saw Election shortly after it came out on video (I was working at Hollywood Video then, and saw just about everything), and loved it from the start. I even purchased my own used copy from work (on VHS!) because it seemed to me to be the kind of movie I could enjoy any time–and I also wanted to be able to share it with others. That was back in 1999, and I had no idea till I read Little Children that it was based on a novel. (Or did I? I sometimes forget things, amazing as that might sound. I don’t believe I knew it was a novel.) Read the rest of this entry »
Property by Valerie Martin
Nan A Talese/Doubleday, 1st edition, 2003
Genre: literary fiction, historical fiction
Set in the surreal heat of the antebellum South during a slave rebellion, Property takes the form of a dramatic monologue, bringing to the page a voice rarely heard in American fiction: the voice of a woman slave holder. Manon Gaudet is pretty and petulant, self-absorbed and bored. She has come to a sugar plantation north of New Orleans as a bride, bringing with her a prized piece of property, the young slave Sarah, only to see Sarah become her husband’s mistress and bear his child. As the whispers of a slave rebellion grow louder and more threatening, Manon speaks to us of her past and her present, her longings and dreams – an uncensored, pitch-perfect voice from the heart of moral darkness.
Property is riveting fiction, fast, richly plotted, shimmering with visual detail. It is also an invitation to re-examine the traditions of the Southern novel and the myth of the chivalrous South, and a haunting meditation on what Valerie Martin has called “the fantastic and constant perversity of the oppressor to feel victimized by the oppressed.”
Book Report: I stumbled acrost a description of Property somewhere on the Internets while at work late one night, and promptly requested it from the MCL.I was mildly surprised to discover the author was the same Valerie Martin as wrote Mary Reilly, a parallel novel I could never quite make up my mind on (though I have have read it more than once, which may be suggestive of something). It currently holds first place on my Overdue shelf, as I was unable to renew it due to hold, and refused to give it up till I’d written about it–no matter how long that might take. Was it worth the fines? Read the rest of this entry »