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Tom Perrotta on His Reading Habits
Thomas R. Perrotta is an American novelist and screenwriter best known for his novels Election (1998) and Little Children (2004), both of which were made into critically acclaimed, Golden Globe-nominated films. Perrotta co-wrote the screenplay for the 2006 film version of Little Children with Todd Field, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Perrotta: You know, it’s actually a very funny thing, but my wife is often very frustrated with me because she’ll read a book that she really likes and she’ll say, “You’ve got to read this,” and I’ll just have to tell her, you know, “I can’t now.” It’s almost like a mystical thing for me. It’s like I know what I want to read right now, like… For some reason today I just had this sudden… I just saw some reference to Joseph Heller’s “Something Happened,” which I haven’t read, and I remember that a friend of mine had read it in college and said, “Oh, this book is really interesting because it’s called ‘Something Happened’ but really, nothing happens,” and I just was in a bookstore, like, trying to find it and I couldn’t find it, but I will. That’s the thing I have to read next now and, you know, it didn’t matter, you could tell me that you just read the best book in the world but I won’t be able read it now because I have to read “Something Happened.” But if two days go by and something displaces “Something Happened” I’ll probably go another 10 years before I read it, but I have a huge backlog of things that I need to read and I’m still sort of, you know, filling in big holes in my reading life. I was just in somebody’s house and they had a copy of “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire,” right? And I know that I should read that book. And I’m still that kid, you know, whose teacher says, you know, read Moby Dick. Okay, I’ll read Moby Dick. So, I don’t read nearly as much contemporary stuff as I should, and I will say that the one thing that’s really happened to me over the past few years, mainly, [with as a result] of having kids and having, wanting to spend time with them but also just getting older, I read it late at night. You know, I read between, like, 10 and midnight, except that sometimes, you know, 10:15, I’m falling asleep, you know? So it takes me a long time to get through books and I’m often sort of embarrassed to be telling people, well, I haven’t read, you know, this or that really big book and it’s not because I don’t want to read it, I just haven’t been able to get to it.
Tom Perrotta talks about never getting around to reading what he should.
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- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
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- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
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Parenting could be a distraction from what mattered most to him: his writing.
Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?
Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.
Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.
Hollywood has created an idea of aliens that doesn't match the science.
- Ask someone what they think aliens look like and you'll probably get a description heavily informed by films and pop culture. The existence of life beyond our planet has yet to be confirmed, but there are clues as to the biology of extraterrestrials in science.
- "Don't give them claws," says biologist E.O. Wilson. "Claws are for carnivores and you've got to be an omnivore to be an E.T. There just isn't enough energy available in the next trophic level down to maintain big populations and stable populations that can evolve civilization."
- In this compilation, Wilson, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, Bill Nye, and evolutionary biologist Jonathan B. Losos explain why aliens don't look like us and why Hollywood depictions are mostly inaccurate.