Stephen King is best known for his horror novels. Tom Perrotta is not. He doesn’t write horror novels. He writes literary fiction that specializes in the ennui and quiet tragedies of life in the modern American suburb, at least that’s what he had been writing until now. In 2004, for instance, The New York Times Book Review compared Perrotta with Chekhov. I’m not under the impression that anyone has compared Stephen King’s work, powerful as it can be, to the rather challenging, high brow legend of the short story, Anton Chekhov. And yet it made perfect sense to me when I heard that it was King himself who had chosen to write the upcoming New York Times Book Review piece on The Leftovers a book I’ll not hold off a sentence longer from saying could be one of this year’s blockbusters.
Though I doubt anyone has previously compared Stephen King with Tom Perrotta, the two authors do share a kind of luck. Beyond having published work that sells rather well (or, in King’s case, extraordinarily well – 350 million books sold and counting), both seem to write stories that translate naturally to the screen, big and small. Two of Perrotta’s first five novels were made into films, both of which were Oscar nominated, the one a stark and penetrating melodrama about suburban life starring Kate Winslet (“Little Children”), the other a satire on politics and popularity that starred Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick (“Election”), and that Perrotta himself helped adapt into a screenplay.
Now comes Perrotta’s latest novel.
Even before it has hit the shelves, Variety
has reported that HBO, that juggernaut of cable television, is developing a series based on The Leftovers
, a gripping tale that focuses on Mapleton, a rather picturesque American town dealing, or trying to deal, with the aftermath of a massive scale disaster. Millions upon millions of people around the world have suddenly disappeared – gone for good – in an event the book and the characters in it refer to as The Rapture. Had Stephen King written it, the book would probably have been called “The Rapture” and told a markedly different story, one that would likely have placed the Rapture itself as the climatic centre of the story...