Moments of Weakness

One of my favorite books (and films) of recent years has been Tom Perrotta’s “Little Children” which follows the story of two bored stay-at-home parents, who shake their boredom by having an affair.  In it, Perrotta skewers many suburban stereotypes ruthlessly.

In his most recent book, “The Abstinence Teacher”, Perrotta returns to suburbia and examines a small skirmish in the Culture War that erupts when:
a) a high-school sex-ed teacher mentions that “many people enjoy sex” to her charges, and
b) a community soccer coach leads his middle-school-age girls’ team in a moment of prayer after a game.

The Abstinence Teacher

Tom Perrotta

Before each of those examples I almost wrote “in a moment of weakness, a high school…”, or “without considering the consequences, a community soccer…”.    And to me this is one of the points that Perrotta is trying to convey.  We’ve created a society in which advocates of either the right or the left can fan the smallest comment or action into a firestorm.

I finished this book about the time Carrie Prejean (Miss California USA) made headlines by answering a question about gay-marriage in the Miss USA Pageant.  In her answer, she stumbled through platitudes for a while and then in the end blurted out that she did not support same-sex marriage and that marriage should be between a man and a woman.  As a result, she has been lionized by the right and disparaged by the left.  The media feeding frenzy around her reminded me of this book (I mean, does the opinion of a 22-yo beauty pageant entrant really worth all this fuss?).  And God forbid, we should have a respectful discourse.  

As a book, I don’t think “The Abstinence Teacher” is as good as “Little Children”—the characters are a little too broadly drawn, but I have to think that this book is a great choice for book-clubs because it’s a situation that we can all readily insert ourselves into and consider what we’d do confronted by the same type of situations — and what might happen to us if we blurted something out we actually believed in a moment of weakness.

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12 thoughts on “Moments of Weakness

  1. Oooh, interesting! I enjoyed the movie Little Children, I'd like to check out the book. Unfortunately we don't seem to have it at my library, but we do have The Abstinence Teacher, so I'll grab that.

  2. I really loved that book. I read a review for it that said that Tom Perrotta writes very good books that are turned into excellent movies, and I agree. (They've optioned the rights for this one, too.)

  3. good review. I may have to check this out at some point. They asked that girl her opinion and she gave an honest one and now she is a tabloid queen. I bet she didn't see that one coming.

  4. After I asked for film suggestions (when you suggested Little Children) a while back I added them to my queue. Little Children was one of the first to come. I loved it! I should read his books, at least give them a try.Hope you are enjoying your "free" time. So nice to see your healthy attitude towards it.

  5. She's not being "lionized" because of who she is, but rather, she ignored the instructions before the pageant that she answer in a PC manner, stood up for what she believed in, even though she knew it wouldn't be popular, and hasn't backed down despite the despicable treatment she's received from the likes of Perez Hilton, Keith Olbermann, etc. For that reason, I admire and respect her. Not because she participates in beauty pageants.

  6. I really enjoyed Election (book and movie). Joe College was fun. I wasn't huge on The Wishbones.
    He needs to write more; this "new book every two years at best" thing is not good.

  7. Jen — I think the interesting thing is that she really did start down the typical pageant answer with platitudes and not-really-saying anything. Then she just seem to say what she thought — which was both surprising and refreshing. Even though I don't agree with her, I'm glad she said it — and in a way, with Prop-8 you could even argue that she represents the thoughts of the majority of Californians.What I can't believe is that her statement has become a publicly debated issue.

  8. I'm surprised more people aren't like, "Wait, she's 22 and she still can't form a coherent sentence? Really?" At least she wasn't as bad as that one pageant girl, but you'd think that they'd coach them on how to sound poised and articulate. Everyone knows the interview is part of it, right?
    Because that's honestly more upsetting to me (22-year-old who sort of meanders down the English language) than the fact that she doesn't think I should be able to get married.

  9. I am excited about this author now. I have a book voucher and have been wondering what to use it on — will order something by this guy. Thanks a lot Steve :)As for that Miss California, I've been reading about the furore in the papers. Frankly I agree with Trump when he said her opinion was exactly that of the President of the US and so many others — so why should she be crucified for it?

  10. Defineltly an interesting concept for a book. Thanks for pointing it out. I sure hope she wrote about the absurdity of it all. The Miss USA pagent is sexist to begin with but then to have contestants dressed up in a monkey suit while asking them what they think is pretty silly. Would we want Michelle Obama dressed in a bikini while she speaks at a conference for children's health care?

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