Tom Perrotta on American Gloom

Tom Perrotta notes a radical mood swing in American culture lately.
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TRANSCRIPT

Perrotta: The thing that’s really percolating for me in a literary sense is just this the way that this deep feeling of glooms seems to have settled over us.  I’m really interested in the sort of collective mood swings, you know, that the… there’s a kind of giddiness, you know, in the ‘90s when that dot.com boom was happening and there was just this sense that, you know, America could do anything and that, you know, everybody could get rich and, obviously, you know, September 11 created a whole other, you know, collective mood swing but then we… and we’ve been on a kind of, you know, and things have been steadily darkening, I think, but, boy, this last crash just, you could just feel it.  There’s a kind of pall over us and I think a lot of ideas that people have been living with for a long time are looking like, you know, there were misconceptions and you feel almost a kind of mood of fear and, you know, close to grief for all those hopes that we had and then a sense that all sorts of things were possible and it may be exaggerated.  We may bounce back from this and we may forget all about it, but right now I’m just sensing a kind of very dark mood and a kind of, you know, almost like a, you know, a slightly apocalyptic mood in America right now and that’s something I’ve been thinking about and I’m trying to figure out if there’s some way to work with that.  I know there’ve been a lot of, a lot of writers doing apocalyptic fiction.  I think Cormack McCarthy said “The Road” was a really interesting sort of prophetic book.  You know, obviously it dealt with a kind of nuclear, or he didn’t specify what it was.  It’s not so much… I’m not feeling a sort of, you know, cold war, nuclear war kind of darkness, but just a sense of our way of life isn’t what we thought it was or can’t be what we expected it to be and so what’s left.  You know, that could lead to some really interesting changes, you know.  The idea that Americans were going to change voluntarily because it made sense to, say, drive smaller cars or consume less, it’s just not how we work, you know.  We really have to be forced into changing, but I have a feeling that we are being forced into changing and that could be, there could be some opportunities in that.  But, in the meantime, there’s just a pretty dark sense of our horizons narrowing.